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I. A little history: The Shepherding Movement. 

II. From Shepherding to Under Cover. 

III. Delegated authority. 

IV. The 'kingdom of God' in Bevere's thought: rank, order & authority. 

V. The Old Testament in Bevere's thought. 

VI. Suffering in Bevere's thought. 

VII. Faith in Bevere's thought. 

VIII. 'Obey your leaders' in Bevere's thought. 

IX. Why do people go 'under cover' and remain there? 

X. The effects of covering theology and conclusions. 


"What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned 
anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it. " 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). 

According to the New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements 
the Shepherding Movement (sometimes known as the Discipling Movement) emerged as a 
'distinct nondenominational movement' in 1974. 1 In 1970 a group of four Charismatic Bible 
teachers met together in response to a ministerial impropriety at the Holy Spirit Teaching 
Mission (HSTM). 2 The four were Bernard (Bob) Mumford, ordained through the Assemblies 
of God; Derek Prince, another Pentecostal; Don Basham, an ordained Disciples of Christ 
minister; and Charles Simpson, originally a Southern Baptist. The men were already frequent 
contributors to New Wine magazine, published by the HSTM, and soon to become the biggest 
selling Charismatic periodical in the United States. 3 The four decided to mutually submit to 
one another and to hold each other accountable, and it was through New Wine that the 
peculiar teachings of the Shepherding Movement were emphasised and promoted: authority, 
submission, discipleship, commitment in covenant relationships, loyalty, pastoral care, and 
spiritual covering. S. David Moore, in his definitive account of the movement, summarises 

the key distinctive as: 

1 Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van Der Maas, "The Shepherding Movement," TNIDPCM, 1060. 

' The Holy Spirit Teaching Mission was a charismatic ministry in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and had 

seen its founder, Eldon Purvis, resign. Purvis went on to found 'New Beginnings' which amalgamated aspects 
of Pentecostalism and British-Israel Covenant-keeping teachings. He died in 1990. Even now, the exact reason 
behind his resignation from HSTM is unclear. 

1 At its peak New Wine had over 90,000 subscriptions, a much larger figure at that time than 

Christianity Today. Although New Wine retained its title, in May 1972 HSTM changed its name to Christian 
Growth Ministries (CGM). 

...the need for discipleship through personal pastoral care or, as they termed it, 
'shepherding' care... a believer was to submit to a 'personal pastor' who would help 
the individual develop Christian maturity. 4 

Much has been said in analysis of why the Shepherding Movement emerged. William Kay 
says it can be seen as a 'response to growing individualism and the directionless flow of the 
Charismatic movement.' 5 By June 1974, when a second 'Shepherds Conference' in New 
Columbia attracted nearly 2,000 pastors and leaders, the four had become five with the 
addition to the group of Canadian Pentecostal W. J.E. (Ern) Baxter. Together they became 
known as the 'Fort Lauderdale Five'. One year later, in Kansas City, the 1975 National 
Men's Shepherds Conference was attended by nearly 5,000 Charismatic leaders and there 
was a growing stream of churches submitting to the 'Five'. The number of adherents directly 
involved was estimated at over 100,000. New Wine magazine and the use of new media 
(video and audio cassette tapes) promulgating the Shepherding emphases were shipped across 
the United States and the world. Moore says that statistics for the five year period from 1979 
- 1984 show a distribution of four and a half million magazines, one million newsletters, six 
hundred thousand cassette tapes and a quarter of a million books. 6 

The rise in influence alarmed many, who saw in the Shepherding Movement, despite the 
protestations and denials of the five men, a new Charismatic denomination forming. 7 Added 

S. David Moore, The Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclesiology (London: T 
& T Clark International, 2003), 1-2. Moore writes that 'the movement's teachings are complex and are a worthy 
topic for future study. The five leaders developed a complicated, dynamic, and nuanced theological and 
ecclesiological stance uncharacteristic of the theologically shallow stereotype often ascribed to Pentecostals and 
Charismatics' (p. 68). 

William K. Kay, Apostolic Networks in Britain: New Ways of Being Church (Milton Keynes: 
Paternoster Press, 2007), 195. 
6 Moore, Shepherding, 7. 

Steven Lambert sarcastically contends that 'this elite ministerial Quintumverate' concluded that the 
burgeoning charismatic movement needed 'some good, old-fashioned human organisation, man-centered 
authoritarianism, and ecclesiastical hierarchy.' Steven Lambert, Charismatic Captivation: Authoritarian Abuse 
and Psychological Enslavement in Neo-Pentecostal Churches (Chapel Hill NC: Real Truth Publications, 2003), 

to this were tales of abusive authority, hyper-submission and controlled lives. In 1975 Pat 
Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), denounced the movement 
for 'cultic' excesses and banned any CBN-affiliated media from working with the Five. 
Robertson wrote an open letter to Bob Mumford with many allegations from former 
Shepherding members of abusive spiritual authority. In the same year Demos Shakarian, 
founder of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International (FGBMFI), forbade any 
chapter of the FGBMFI to promote the shepherding teachings, while Charismatic healing 
evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman refused to share a platform at the Jerusalem Holy Spirit 
Conference with Bob Mumford. The latter withdrew. 

In an effort to deal with the controversy, Charismatic leaders met with the five Shepherding 
leaders at the Curtis Hotel, Minneapolis. The meeting has entered Charismatic folklore as 
'the shoot-out at the Curtis Hotel,' an epitaph which indicates the prevailing atmosphere. 8 
Separate tracks followed for the 1977 Kansas City Conference on Charismatic Renewal and, 
despite the controversies, more than 9,000 attended the Shepherding track, with only 1,500 
attending the non- Shepherding sub-conference. 9 

Accusations of spiritual abuse continued. In 1976, the 'Five' issued a statement of concern 
and regret: 

We realise that controversies and problems have arisen among Christians in various 
areas as a result of our teaching in relation to subjects such as submission, authority, 
discipling, shepherding. We deeply regret these problems and, insofar as they are due 
to fault on our part, we ask forgiveness from our fellow believers whom we have 
offended. 10 

8 For the definitive account of this, and the Shepherding Movement in its entirety, see Moore, 

9 The Shepherding track came second to the Catholic Charismatics with 25,000 attendees. 

10 Cited in Moore, Shepherding, 102. 

By 1980 it was clear that many members and churches were haemorraghing from the 
movement. Derek Prince publically exited in 1984, (having privately severed his ties with the 
group in 1983), citing a change of theological direction: he no longer believed in trans-local 
pastoral submission and said that the group had been 'guilty of the Galatian error: having 
begun in the Spirit, we quickly degenerated into the flesh.' 11 In 1986 New Wine ceased 
publication and the remaining four men ended their formal relationship. The Shepherding 
Movement seemed to be over. 

Don Basham died in 1989. 12 In November of that year Bob Mumford read a statement at 
the Christian Believers United meeting in North Carolina. The statement made the cover of 
Ministries Today magazine in the January / February edition of 1990 which simply read: 
'Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I was wrong. I ask for forgiveness. - Bob Mumford.' 13 
Mumford publically repented of his part in the Shepherding Movement, admitting 'some 
families were split up and lives turned upside down. Some of these families are still not back 
together.' There was an admittance that the movement had caused 'an unhealthy submission 
resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders.' 14 

Moore's exhaustive account of the movement concludes that the very things that the 
Shepherding Movement taught: 

...created a propensity toward an abuse of spiritual authority, especially among young 

11 Prince went on to say, 'I repented of my involvement and renounced the error. I deeply regret the 
damage that was done to the body of Christ and in the lives of many promising young men and women.' 

12 Ern Baxter died in July 1993 and Derek Prince in September 2003. 

13 Jamie Buckingham, "The End of the Discipleship Era," MT (January/February 1990): 46. 

14 Buckingham, "Discipleship," 48. 

immature leaders, or leaders who lacked character and integrity... the emphasis on 
hierarchically oriented submission to God's delegated authorities led to many cases of 
improper control and abusive authority throughout the movement. 15 


The September 1972 issue of New Wine had presented the first of a series of seven articles by 
Bob Mumford which 'focused on the need for practical obedience to God and submission to 
his delegated authority in all spheres of life.' 16 In October 1972 Charles Simpson's article on 
the 'Covering of the Lord' appeared. In this, Simpson focused on the 'covering' or protection 
provided by submitting oneself to God's delegated authority in the home, church, and civil 
government.' 17 Despite the near-history of the Shepherding Movement, and despite it being a 
mere eleven years since Mumford' s very public apology, in 2001 Thomas Nelson published 
John Bevere's Under Cover, a book which promotes Bevere's own teachings on authority, 
submission, discipleship, commitment in covenant relationships, loyalty, pastoral care, and 
spiritual covering. 

Bevere's book has been a best-seller. It has been translated into over twenty languages and 
is often found in the bookshops of Charismatic churches, perhaps more so, as one reviewer 
says, in those churches that are 'accustomed to top-down, hierarchical models of church 
leadership.' 18 Leighton Tebay contends that 'while covering theology is more popular in non- 
denominational Charismatic churches it is slowly gaining ground in more traditional 

15 Moore, Shepherding, 149, 182. 

16 Moore, Shepherding, 54. 

17 Moore, Shepherding, 55. The magazine can be found at 

18 Tyler Ramey, "What's Wrong with John Bevere's Under Cover?" n.p. [cited 21 November 201 1]. 

Evangelical circles. 


As there is only one appearance of the word 'covering' in the entire New Testament - used 
in connection with a woman's head covering in 1 Cor 11:15 - some have argued there is 
'scant biblical evidence to support it.' 20 However, the absence of the word 'Trinity' in the 
Bible does not equate to scanty biblical evidence for this truth. The question should not be, 
'Is this particular word in the Bible?' but instead 'Is this is a biblical principle?' Steven 
Lambert writes that, because of the rejection of Shepherding teaching in the 1970s and 1980s, 
proponents of the doctrine began to implement 'alternate, less overt terminology. 21 Mary Alice 
Chrnalogar agrees: 

...since many leaders in the Shepherding Movement admitted doing wrong, various 
people who continue to use the same methods have begun to give different labels for 
the same actions... The errors are covered in many different terms like delegated 
authority, covering, unquestioned submission, covenant, commitment to a fellowship, 
etc. Terms change from time to time. Submission may be called 'commitment,' 
'covenant relationship' or 'divine order' in church government. Many times terms 
aren't used at all; it is the actions that tell you what is going on. 22 

It has been said that the original teachers in the Discipleship / Shepherding Movement 
'established a beachhead from which others have advanced. 23 Although Bevere avoids using 
the words 'shepherding' and 'discipleship' throughout Under Cover, the main focus of the 
book is teaching on obedience to 'delegated authority' and the 'spiritual covering' it provides. 
But does the New Testament teach that we are protected from spiritual attack or error through 

19 Leighton Tebay, "Covering and Authority," n.p. [cited 21 November 201 1]. Online: The term 'covering theology' will be used for the teaching in Under Cover. 

20 Frank Viola, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity (Colorado Springs: 
David C. Cook, 2008), 203. 

21 Lambert, Captivation, 79. 

22 Mary Alice Chrnalogar, Twisted Scriptures: Breaking Free From Churches That Abuse (Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 23. 

2:1 Moore, Shepherding, 191. 

submission to a church leader? What is entailed by 'spiritual covering' and who exactly is 
God's 'delegated authority' in the Church? And how much authority is delegated to him or 


Covering theology is inextricably linked with the concept of 'delegated authority' which 
comes from Romans 13. Bevere's first reference to this scripture occurs on page 1 1 after the 
following comment: 

Some may say, T submit to God, but not to man, unless I agree with him.' This is 
where our upbringing and incorrect church thinking can hinder us. We cannot 
separate our submission to God's inherent authority from our submission to His 
delegated authority. All authority originates from Him! 24 

The first two verses of Romans chapter 13 are then cited, with the words 'For there is no 
authority except from God,' italicised: 

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except 
from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever 
resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring 
judgment on themselves (Rom 13:1-2). 

Bevere points out that the words 'Let every soul' mean that 'no one is exempt.. .It is a 
command, not a suggestion,' before correctly teaching that the Greek word for 'subject' in 

the passage is u'pota.ssw, which, according to Thayer's Greek dictionary is, in non-military 

usage, 'a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a 
24 Ibid., 11. 

burden.' He summarises the meaning of u'pota.ssw as a word that 'exhorts us to voluntarily 
place ourselves under submission to authorities with the full intent of obeying them,' 25 and 

identifies that the English word 'appointed' in these verses is the Greek word ta.ssw: '...which 
means 'to assign, ordain, or set.' In no way does this word have 'by chance' implications. It 
is direct appointment. 26 

Bevere then uses some scriptural examples (such as the story of Joseph) which show the 
sovereignty of God in the setting up of various 'authorities' in the Bible. In all this, Bevere is 
teaching what Ron Burks called 'the Shepherding Movement's now infamous doctrine.' 27 
Derek Prince, in the Shepherding Movement's key text Shepherding, Discipleship, 
Commitment, wrote: 

...the New Testament requires submission to the following specific relationships... all 
Christians to secular government on all levels... all Christians to those who rule over 
them in the church... we do not obey those in authority because they are right; we obey 
them because they are in authority, and all authority ultimately stems from God 
himself (See Rom 13:1-5)... Our attitude toward those who whom God sets in 
delegated authority over us is the outward and visible expression of our attitude 
toward God himself 28 

Such linking of delegated authority to church leaders, and therefore church leaders to 
God's authority, is also seen in Watchman Nee's Spiritual Authority, a book often cited by 
the Shepherding Movement and by Bevere. 29 Nee writes: 

25 Ibid., 88. 

26 Ibid., 88. 

27 Ron & Vicki Burks, Damaged Disciples: Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding 
Movement (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 136. 

23 Derek Prince, Discipleship, Shepherding, Commitment (Ft Lauderdale: Derek Prince Publications, 

1976), 19. 

2 ° On the back of the May 1972 New Wine, Bob Mumford recommends Nee's ' Spiritual Authority ' and 

says, 'Spiritual authority... is what the Master is saying to his Body of Christ across this nation.' Bob Mumford, 
"A Most Timely Book," NW (May 1972). The magazine, along with every edition of New Wine from June 
1969 to December 1983, can be accessed at 


God is the source of all authorities in the universe... Wherever people encounter 
authority they meet God... Is there any room for us to choose between God's direct 
authority and his delegated authority? No, we must be subject to delegated authority 
as well as to God's direct authority, for 'there is no authority except from God.' 30 

Applying Romans 13 not only to civil authorities but to church leaders is the major 
building block in covering theology. Bevere writes, with no explanation, that 'these words of 
exhortation apply not only to governmental leaders but also encompass other areas of 
delegated authority. What we glean from this text should be applied to all areas of delegated 
authority.' 3 'These areas of delegated authority are 'civil, church, family, and social.' 32 Bevere 
reiterates that disobeying these delegated authorities is the same as disobeying God: 

Since God has appointed all authorities, we refuse the authority behind them if we 
dishonour or refuse to submit to them. Whether we know it or not, we resist the 
ordinance or rule of God. When we oppose God's delegated authority, we oppose 
God Himself! 33 

The results of disobedience are severe: 

...most Christians think obedience is the exception and personal free choice is the rule. 
Following this type of reasoning can lead us into a course of destruction. The 
consequences. ..are severe. Not only does it place us under the judgment of God, but it 
grants legal access to demonic powers. If we want to remain obedient to God and , 
we have but one choice when it comes to delegated authority - submission and 
obedience. 34 

The key question is: does Romans 13:1-6 refer to anything other than civil authorities? 
Covering theology contends that everyone should submit to those in authority over them 
(whether a husband, church leader or employer) and that everyone who is in authority (and 

Watchman Nee, Spiritual Authority (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1972), 61. 

31 Bevere, Under, 87. 

32 Ibid., 88. 

33 Ibid., 88. 

34 Ibid., 89. 


their authority is inherent in their position) is God's delegated authority. Therefore, those 
who resist God's delegated authority are resisting God. 

One must first read the whole passage to see the context of these opening verses. These 
passages are clearly referring to state authorities, civil governments and officials, and cannot 
be used to refer to God's delegated authorities in the family or church. The first six verses of 
Romans chapter 13 are the context, and there are three obvious applications to the state 
authorities that simply cannot be attributed to church authorities. The first is seen in verse 
four: 'For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not 
bear the sword for nothing (Rom 13:4). This bearing of the sword is often used to claim 
God's approval of capital punishment - an argument beyond the scope of this essay - but the 
obvious point is that bearing a sword of punishment is not a role for authorities within the 
Church. The second application to civil authorities is seen in their retributive function on 

He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible 
punishment but also because of conscience (Rom 13:4-5). 

Again, wrath on wrongdoers is not a function of the New Testament church. And thirdly, 
and perhaps most clearly, the authorities that Paul is describing in these verses are linked to 

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their 
full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; 
if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour (Rom 13:6-7). 

There is no doubt that the New Testament urges the believer to obey civil authorities. Paul 
writes to Timothy: 


I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made 
for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet 
lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Tim 2:1-2). 

Titus is instructed to 'remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be 
obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good' (Titus 3:1). Peter writes to the believers to 
'submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to 
the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who 
do wrong and to commend those who do right.. .fear God, honour the King' (1 Pet 2:13-14, 
17). And Christ himself taught his followers to 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God 
what is God's...' (Mark 12:17). 

There is no scriptural warrant, however, to insist that what is gleaned from these verses in 
Romans 'should be applied to all areas of delegated authority.' 35 The context and examples 
are clearly related to civil government. Mark Vrankovich writes: 

Those trying to twist scripture often take verses out of context by viewing the verse in 
isolation to the verses around it. However, here we have an instance of verses being 
taken out of context when the context is contained within the quoted verses 
themselves. 36 

The New Testament is devoid of church leaders who 'bear the sword,' are 'agents of 
wrath to bring punishment on the wrong doer,' or who collect taxes and revenue. One 
commentator has also pointed out that 'in the shift to spiritual authority' that Bevere's 
interpretation envisions, the judgment mentioned in the passage is turned into 'a direct 

35 Ibid., 87. 

16 Mark Vrankovich, "Church Leadership Authority," n.p. [cited 21 November 201 1]. Online: 


spiritual judgment from God - something nowhere even suggested in the passage. 


Such a view of Romans 13, leads to statements such as the following. Terry Nance, 
another advocate of covering theology, says: must have it settled in your heart that according to Romans 13:1-2, all authority 
is ordained of God. You must make up your mind to submit to your pastor in the same 
way that you would submit to Jesus... to refuse to submit to God's delegated authority 
is to refuse to submit to God. 38 

Paul does indeed use the verb if pota.ssw meaning 'to subject, to subordinate, but the 

noun to which submission is required - evxousi.aij - ('authorities') is never used of leaders in 
the church. 40 It is, as Moo says, 'a phrase that is central to the interpretation of the passage,' 41 
but there is no scholarly debate over whether this passage in Romans 13 refers to church 
leaders as well as civil authorities. The debate in the text, again beyond the scope of this 
essay, is a debate about whether Christians should voluntarily submit and be obedient to a 
corrupt government. 42 Douglas Moo writes that 'it is only a slight exaggeration to say that the 

M. James Sawyer, "Under Cover: Authority, Obedience (& Abuse?)" n.p. [cited 21 November 201 1]. 
!S Terry Nance, God's Armor Bearer: Serving God's Leaders (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, 

2003), 19. 

39 BDAG, s.v. u'pota.ssw la. Some translations use the English word 'obey' but the New Testament 
expresses this through u'pacou,w, peiqarce.w, or pei.qomai. 

40 Instead, in its plural form, Paul's use of evxousi,aij, consistently refers to 'spirit authorities' as in Eph 
3:10; 6:12 and Col 1:13,16. However, such consistency in translating the word as 'spiritual authorities' is 
supported in every case by the context in which the word appears - except here in Romans 13. Additionally, 

when is referring to spiritual beings, Paul always uses avrcai, as well - this is missing in Rom 13:1. 
Josephus also uses the plural of the word to refer to the Roman authorities in Judea (Bell, ii.350). 

41 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 795. 

42 Leighton Tebay, in seeking to show that there is leeway in these verses to resist corrupt and harsh 
government, has written: 'Paul has chosen to be very precise in his wording in Romans 13. If he meant to say 
people are resisting God if they resist authority he would have said that. Instead, he said that those who resist 
authority are resisting what God ordained or put in order.' He then uses the example of a parking lot manager, 
who is appointed to be an authority in the parking lot, but who then commands a worker to break company 
policy: 'A worker may end up in total rebellion against the manager but still completely respect and follow the 
wishes of the ultimate authority.' Tebay, "Covering," n.p. Additionally, Mary Alice Chrnalogar writes 'notice 


history of the interpretation of Romans 13:1-7 is the history of attempts to avoid what seems 
to be its plain meaning,' 43 while another has said of the passage, 'these seven verses have 
caused more unhappiness and misery in the Christian East and West than any other seven 
verses in the New Testament.' 44 But the debate over what is the 'plain meaning' of the text 
(which can be summarised in the question 'Are Christians required to obey the government's 
orders at all times and in every situation?') is not a debate over whether Paul had the 
authority of church leaders in mind. Modern scholarly commentaries do not even broach this 
subject when looking at the text, and it is only in looking at writers who advocate 'covering 
theology' and 'delegated authority' can you find any such debate. 45 


One reason that Bevere sees Romans 13 as applicable to church authorities is his view of the 
kingdom of God. The jump from Paul's command to be subject to governmental authorities 
to the supposed command of being subject to church authorities can be linked to Bevere 's 
view of God's kingdom as described in Chapter 2 of Under Cover. He writes: 

My experience has been that Westerners (dwellers of democratic nations of America 
and Europe) are some of the most resistant people to truly hearing the word of God. 
The reason is fundamental. It is hard to understand kingdom principles with a 

the words 'for rulers hold no terror for those who do right' This passage only refers to good government, 
because those who do right under good government have no fear of the rulers. Under corrupt leaders, there is 
fear of doing what truly is right.' Chrnalogar, Twisted, 90. 

43 Moo, Romans, 806. 

44 Cited by Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 457. 

4 Fitzmyer points out that even in medieval and Renaissance times, when the Church and the State were 

often one and the same, commentators were 'divided over whether Paul was referring solely to civil rulers.' 
Cajetan, Seripando, Melanchthon, and Calvin interpreted the passage as referring to civil rulers, whereas 
Sadoleto and Luther understood it as 'spiritual rulers' and 'secular princes'. But, as Fitzmyer concludes, 'This 
distinction rarely surfaces in the modern discussion of the text' Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans (AYBC 33; New 
York: Doubleday, 1993), 666. 


democratic mind-set. Democracy is fine for the nations of the world, but we must 
remember the kingdom of God is just that - a kingdom. It is ruled by a King, and there 
are rank, order, and authority. 46 

Bevere follows up this assertion with a reminder of the potentially dire consequences for 
those who do not agree: 

If we attempt to live as believers with a cultural mind-set towards authority, we will 
be at best ineffective and at worst positioned for danger. Our provision as well as 
protection could be blocked or even cut off as we disconnect ourselves from the 
Source of true life. 47 

Bevere is treading old Shepherding ground. In 1976, responding to what they termed the 
'Discipleship and Submission Movement,' the General Council of the Assemblies of God 

...some of these teachers claim their mission and the church's mission is no longer 
evangelism, but the setting up of a new order on earth in prospect of bringing in the 
Kingdom. But the New Testament does not indicate we can set up a purified external 
order in this age. The Church grows and develops, but the tares will be among the 
wheat until the harvest. Judgement that destroys the present world order is necessary 
before the kingdom rule can be established on earth, as Daniel 2, 2 Thessalonians 1, 
and Revelation 19 clearly indicate. 48 

The fact that God's kingdom is a spiritual reality is not alluded to by Bevere. As such, 
with the Church as 'the kingdom here and now', a hierarchical model of rank and authority is 
set up. This is the same ecclesiology that Moore evaluates in his account of the Shepherding 
Movement. He writes: 

The movement's ecclesiology was founded upon its view of the kingdom of God... In 
their view, the kingdom of God spoke of the reign and rule of God... This message of 

46 Bevere, Under, 10. 

47 Ibid., 10. 

48 The full paper of this session can be found online at http://www. ministers. 

[cited 21 November, 201 1] 


God's rule necessarily raised the issue of authority... At Christ's ascension and 
enthronement, he gave gifts to humanity, that is, the fivefold office ministries of 
apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher, as delegated authorities for his 
kingdom rule. 49 

The 'rank, order, and authority' that Bevere talks about are an integral part of covering 
theology. Jerram Barrs writes that: 

Some churches and Christian communities have built their authority on an exalted 
view of the church... With such a view it is easy for an authoritarian form of 
government to develop, for those at the head of the pyramid.. .are seen as Christ's 
representatives on earth. 50 

This pyramidal view of the Church is seen throughout Under Cover. There can only be 
one top to a pyramid, and Bevere contends that there is a biblical precedent to see one man in 
a leadership position in a church. After a brief reference to Moses, (how Bevere uses the Old 
Testament will be discussed later), Bevere says that 'James was the leader of the church in 
Jerusalem.' 51 To prove his statement, Bevere cites Acts chapter 15 and the decision of the 
council at Jerusalem regarding the issue of circumcision for new believers in Christ. Bevere 
summarises the incident as follows: 

Some of the believing Pharisees who were also leaders spoke first. Then Peter spoke. 
After him, Paul and Barnabas shared what God was doing among the Gentiles. Once 
they had finished, James stood up, summarised what had been spoken, and then made 
this ruling, 'Therefore I judge...' As the head, he gave his decision, and all of them, 
including Peter, Paul, and John, submitted to his decision. 52 

Other scriptures that Bevere uses to prove the headship of James are Acts 12:17 when 

49 Moore, Shepherding, 69-70. 

:! Jerram Barrs, Shepherds & Sheep: A Biblical View of Leading and Following (Downers Grove: 

InterVarsity Press, 1983), 42. 

51 Bevere writes, 'He [God] brought to my mind Moses. The Bible says, 'Moses certainly was faithful in 
the administration of all God's house.' He was the leader God put over the congregation.' Bevere, Under, 17. 

52 Ibid., 17. 


Peter, after being miraculously delivered from prison by an angel, says to the believers at the 
house of Mary, 'Tell James and the brothers about this,' and Acts 21:17:18, in which Luke 
records Paul's arrival in Jerusalem: 'When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us 
warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James and all the elders were 
present.' Bevere concludes from these scriptures that 'it is clear that he [James] was the lead 
man by the way he is separately mentioned by name. 53 

The Jerusalem council scripture does indeed record James' words as 'Therefore, I judge...' 
However, this is very different from saying 'The judgement is...' James seems to have ended 
the debate and summed up the debate, but there has been debate and James does not make a 
final autocratic decision. Throughout the passage, we read of many contributions to the 

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up... The 
apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up 
and addressed them... The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas 
and Paul... When they finished, James spoke up... (Acts 15: 5-7, 12-13). 

Directly after James' sharing of his own judgment on the issue, we read: 'Then the 
apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and 
send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas' (Acts 15:22). If this were a one-over-one 
theocracy, surely such a decision would have been made by James and not the 'whole 
church'? The actual letter to the Gentile believers is also recorded in the scripture, and the 
summary of the church is 'we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our 
dear friends Barnabas and Paul. . . ' (Acts 15:25). A consensus is clearly shown, and not a one- 

Ibid., 17. 


man leader who makes the final decision himself. 54 

Andrew Walker's succinct phrase for the sort of system that Bevere is advocating is 'a 
Charismatic episcopacy.' 55 The latter part of the phrase indicates, of course, that such a 
system is not particularly new: there have been many church polities that have sought to 
arrange authority - from polities that give all power to the people who sit in the pew, to 
polities that invest all power to a Pope who sits in his palace. However, as Jerram Barrs 
points out: 

The traditional episcopal church guards the balance between the three houses of 
clergy, laity and bishops so that careful checks and balances limit all human 

authority. 56 

Ironically, Derek Prince uses the passage about the Jerusalem Council to argue against the 
one-man model of ministry. He writes of the gift of 'ruling' mentioned in Romans 12:8 but 

...once the basic plurality of leadership in the church has been established, the Holy 
Spirit will normally impart to one of the leaders this charisma for 'ruling' - a special 
gift for administration and direction within the collective leadership. It will not 
necessarily be permanent. 57 

For Prince, the conference in Jerusalem was where 'the charisma of leadership rested upon 
James. However, the final decision... was a unanimous decision of the whole group.' 58 Frank 

54 Bevere's position is exactly the same as Watchman Nee's who writes: 'Peter and Paul only related 

facts, but James made the judgment. Even among the elders or apostles there was an order.' [Nee, Authority, 
69]. It is ironic that classical Presbyterianism uses incidents such as that recorded in Acts 15 to practise the 
formation of presbyteries and synods consisting of all the elders from different congregations. Hardly a one-man 
model of leadership! 

Andrew Walker, Restoring the Kingdom: the Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement 
(Guildford: Eagle, 1998), 147. Walker's phrase is actually directed at the UK Restorationist movement of the 
1970s and 1980s. 

56 Barrs, Shepherds, 41. 

57 Prince, Discipling, 15. 

58 Ibid., 15. 


Viola argues that 'the very ethos of the New Testament militates against the idea of a single 
pastor... No church in the first century had a single leader.' 59 In regarding decision making, 
Viola argues that the New Testament method is 'neither dictatorial nor democratic. It was 
consensual. And it involved all the brothers and sisters.' 60 His summary reads: 

All in all, the New Testament knows nothing of an authoritative mode of leadership. 
Nor does it know a Teaderless' egalitarianism. It rejects both hierarchical structures as 
well as rugged individualism. Instead, the New Testament envisions leadership as 
coming from the entire church... Elders were called to exercise pastoral oversight in 
the context of mutual subjection rather than in a hierarchical structure of 
subordination. 61 

The New Testament consistently teaches a plurality of elders over each local 
congregation: '...appoint elders in every town, as I directed you...' (Titus 1:5); 'Paul and 
Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church...' (Acts 14:23); 'From Miletus, Paul sent 
to Ephesus for the elders of the church,' (Acts 20:17); 'To all the saints in Christ Jesus at 
Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons,' (Phil 1:1). In 1 Tim 5:17, Paul writes that 
'the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially 
those whose work is preaching and teaching,' implying that there are some whose work is not 
in preaching and teaching. 62 

Teachers of covering theology often refer to the individual leadership of Old Testament 
figures. But, as Frank Viola says: 

...those who point to the single leaders of the Old Testament to justify the single 
pastor system make two mistakes. First, they overlook the fact that all the single 
leaders of the Old Testament - Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, etc - were 

Viola, Reimagining, 170, 173. 
Ibid., 171. 
Ibid., 199. 

See also Acts 11:30, 15:2-6,22-40,21:17-18; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 4:14; Heb 13:7,17,24; 1 Pet 5:1- 
2; Jas5:14. 



types of the Lord Jesus Christ, not a human officer. Second, they typically ignore the 
pattern for oversight that is clearly spelled out throughout the New Testament. 63 

The New Testament oversight pattern may not be as 'clearly spelled out' as Viola 
contends, (witness the abundance of denominations), but a plurality of elders is certainly a 
New Testament pattern. Bevere's arguments for a one-man model of leadership may have 
been argued with the noblest of intentions. The ubiquitous individualism of contemporary 
Western society is a fact, and order not chaos is to be seen in the church (as is the process of 
discipling to reach Christian maturity). Whatever the intentions, however, the argument is not 

The hierarchical model is essential in covering theology and firmly espoused in Bevere's 
book. With God as the source of all authority, this authority then trickles down to his 
delegated authority, and into the Church. The fivefold ministries of Ephesians chapter 4 are 
seen as offices of authority. The relevant passage reads: 

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, 
and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service 
(Eph 4:1 1,12). 

Bevere writes: 

The authority of the kingdom flows down through the offices... all authority was 
given to Jesus by the Father... Jesus in turn gave the fivefold ministries... His authority 
flows through appointed offices. ..We see an order of established authority. 64 

Elsewhere Bevere asks us to look at Jesus' words in John 13:20. The text reads, 'I say to 

Viola, Reimagining, \1A. 
Bevere, Under, 184, 119. 


you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me.' Bevere's chain of delegated authority 
through the Ephesians ministries is explained: 

...the Father sent Jesus, and Jesus sends the fivefold ministers. If we receive His 
appointed ministers, we receive Him, and by receiving Him, we receive the Father. 
The chain of order does not stop with the fivefold ministers. It continues to those 
appointed by the ministers. 65 

The most obvious thing to say about the passage in Ephesians, and Bevere's response to it, 
is that there is nothing in the text that shows that these offices are ordered here into a 
hierarchy. There is a case to be argued that none of the terms mentioned in Ephesians 4 are 
offices at all. 66 We do well to remember what the purpose of the apostles, prophets, 
evangelists, pastors and teachers is: prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built 
up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and 
become mature, attaining the full measure of perfection found in Christ' (Eph 4:12- 13). 

The terms are non-hierarchical: 'God's people', 'the body of Christ', 'unity in the faith.' 
With such a strict view of authority and delegated authority, Bevere's Under Cover is at odds 
with the biblical proposition that we are a priesthood of believers in Christ. Relationships 
within the body of Christ are not vertical but horizontal. 

Bevere's position on authority and office only makes sense if we adhere to his literal 
concept of the kingdom of God being a kingdom in the here and now, with God as King, and 

65 Ibid., 127. 

66 It might be argued that the role of 'Apostle' suggests an office, with Judas Iscariot's position in this 
role having to be filled (Acts 1:21). However, the New Testament clearly mentions more than the 12 Apostles in 
the early church. Prophets and evangelists seem to abound, with no mention of an 'official/office' role. And, as 
some commentators have pointed out, if 'prophets' are second in hierarchy why weren't they part of the 
Jerusalem council? Why are only apostles and elders mentioned at this pivotal meeting? Lastly, the word 
'pastor' isn't used to describe either a role or a position within the church anywhere else in scripture. 


with delegated authority expressed in rank, order, status, position, office, etc. Bevere's 
semantics might be more biblical than the Salvation Army, whose titles are taken from a 
secular army, but is the ecclesiology behind the terminology correct? Howard Snyder argues 
the following: 

The church must seek its direction and authority, not primarily in leadership 
structures, but in the authority of Scripture interpreted by the collective sensitivity and 
maturity of the whole body of Christ - the whole Christian universal priesthood - 
guided by the Holy Spirit... the issue at stake in current abuses of shepherding and 
eldership is the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of believers. 67 

The biblical concept of the priesthood of believers is not only seen in the scriptures 1 Pet 
2:9 and Rev 1:5-6 but in the biblical image of the Church as the Body of Christ with all 
members needed and equally important (1 Cor 12). All members are equal (Gal 3:26-29) and 
all have the same access to God (Heb 4: 14-16; 1 John 2:1-2). The title of 'priest' for the 
believer in Jesus means direct access to God for that same believer. Authority structures such 
as those advocated by Bevere tend to obstruct this direct access and are, in effect, a 
throwback to the pre-Reformation Western church. Frank Viola argues that the Reformers 
didn't go far enough. He says: 

The Reformation recovered the truth of the priesthood of all believers. But it failed to 
restore the organic practices that embody this teaching. The Reformation view of the 
priesthood of all believers was individualistic, not corporate. It was restricted to 
soteriology and didn't involve ecclesiology. 68 

Covering theology causes a new form of Christian priesthood to emerge. Bevere is quite 
explicit that leaders have direct access to God in a way that 'ordinary' non-leaders do not. 
They are, after all, God's delegated authority, next in the authoritative chain from the 

67 Barrs, Shepherds, 9. 

68 Viola, Reimagining, 58. In contrast, Bevere operates with a sort of spiritual CEO' model where the 
organisation / church is led by command. 


ultimate authority (God) to the rest of the world and to the Church. This is seen most clearly 
in Chapter 12 of Under Cover. The author mentions a time in his life when, as a church 
worker, he thought the decisions of his pastor to be unwise and 'murmured in my heart 
against them.' 69 He then reveals that 'one day the Spirit spoke to me, I have a question for 
you. ' 70 There then follows a dialogue between Bevere and the Holy Spirit: 71 

Did I put you in the position of pastor, or did I put him in the position of pastor? I 
said, 'You put him in the position.' The Lord quickly said, That is right. Therefore, I 
will show him things I don 't need to show to you, and many times I will keep the 
wisdom of his decision from you on purpose, to see if you will follow him as he 
follows Me. n 

Bevere goes on to say that it would always be the case, usually months later, when the 
wisdom of the pastor's decision would surface. He concludes that 'God did not limit our 
submission to authorities to the times when we see their wisdom, agree with them, or like 
what they tell us. He just said, 'Obey!' 73 He then attributes the following words to God: 

Later the Lord spoke to my heart, John, if I intended for every believer to get all his 
information, wisdom, and direction only from prayer and communion with Me, then 
I'd never have instituted authority in the church. I placed authorities in the church 
with the full intent that My children could not get all they needed just from their 
prayer life. They would have to learn to recognise and hear My voice through their 
leaders as well. 74 

This methodology of invoking the voice of God in the teaching of Under Cover does not 
place the author beyond criticism. It is an astonishing claim to say that God Himself revealed 
to Bevere that He was not all-sufficient for the believer. A similar claim of the essentiality of 
leaders for the believer is given using Korah's rebellion. The rebellion and opposition to 

69 Bevere, Under, 146. 

70 Ibid., 146. 

71 The words that Bevere attributes to the Holy Spirit are always represented in italicised form. 

72 Bevere, Under, 146. 

73 Ibid., 147. 

74 Ibid., 147. 


Moses and Aaron from Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On, along with 250 Israelite men, is 
given in Numbers 16. We read: 

They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them 'You have gone 
too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with 
them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD'S assembly?' (Num 16:3). 

Bevere analyses the passage as follows: 

You've heard it before! If not these exact words, then definitely the message is 
frequently portrayed by behaviour or subtler words, but it's still the same spirit. You 
may hear, 'We're all equal' or 'We're all brothers and sisters' or 'We all have the 
Holy Spirit; why should we have to submit to their leadership?' These people are 
convinced they can hear the Lord as well as anyone else can. 75 

This claim that church leaders mediate between God and men is not New Testament 


The word 'priest' resonates with Old Testament narrative and imagery, and Bevere frequently 
uses the Old Testament in his teaching. The figure of the church pastor as an Old Testament 
prophet or priest is a common symbolic image in some forms of Pentecostalism. The church 
pastor is the leader, the anointed one, who leads his people into the promised land of Christ's 
blessings. But drawing theological propositions from the Old Testament is fraught with 
difficulties. There is, as one commentator puts it, 'a substantial discontinuity between the 
ways God established for Israel and the fact that there has been a tremendous change under 

Ibid., 187. 


the New Covenant inaugurated by the Christ Event. 


In commenting on the Restoration / House Church movements in the UK during the 1970s 
and 1980s, Andrew Walker also comments on the 'elaborate use of typology and Old 
Testament incidents which are then read into the New Testament and the present day.' 77 
Walker concludes that the most effective use of Old Testament typology for the Restoration 
movement in the UK was to compare the kingship of Saul and David with the state of 
leadership in the Church: 

It was pointed out that Saul was not ordained by God but was chosen by the people. 
Democratic methods were compared unfavourably with the theocratic arrangements 
of God. 78 

There is no attention given at all in Under Cover to the question of ordination or of how 
leaders are actually chosen. Throughout the book, Bevere assumes his audience to be a man 
or woman who needs to be in submission to a church leader. Conversely, there is a definite 
focus, as Andrew Walker recognised in Restorationism, to many of the Old Testament 

The story of David and Saul is commonly used by teachers of covering theology. It is said 
that the attitude and actions of David towards Saul provide an example of how to honour the 
office and not the man. The incidents in which David had the opportunity to kill Saul are said 
to show David's submission; and the killing of the Amalekite who killed a dying Saul is also 
cited. However, as Bob Buess points out: 

76 Sawyer, "Obedience," n.p. 

77 Walker, Restoring, 88. 

78 Ibid., 88. 


The truth of the matter is, David did not honour Saul. He did not submit to the office 
either. He gathered an army of men about him to protect himself from Saul and his 
office as king. He humiliated Saul on two different occasions, once by taking his 
sword and again by cutting off his coat tail. He ran from him rather than submit. If he 
had submitted, he would have been killed by Saul. 79 

Moses is also portrayed as an example for a New Testament leader. Bevere discusses the 
grumblings of the people against Moses. In Numbers chapter 20 we have an account of 
Moses falling into authoritarian excess. Walter Chantry says that 'the outstanding flaw of 
Moses on this occasion was thrusting himself into the foreground. His statement was one of 
personal hurt and self-defence, 'Must we bring you water out of this rock?' Moses failed to 
'sanctify the Lord God in their sight.' 80 

Watchman Nee trod a similar path in viewing Moses as a lesson for the New Testament 
Church. In commenting on the Hebrews' grumbling regarding Moses and Aaron, he writes: 

Whenever man touches God's delegated authority he touches God within that person; 
sinning against delegated authority is sinning against God... The people thought they 
were merely opposing Moses and Aaron; they had not the slightest intention of being 
rebellious to God, for they still wished to serve him. They were merely scornful of 
Moses and Aaron. But, God and his delegated authority are inseparable. It is not 
possible to maintain one attitude towards God and another attitude towards Moses and 
Aaron. No one can reject God's delegated authority with one hand and receive God 
with the other hand. If they would submit themselves to the authority of Moses and 
Aaron they would then be in subjection to God. 81 

This 'inseparable' aspect of God from his delegated authority (God from a human leader) 
is commented on by Bevere: 

79 Bob Buess, Discipleship Pro and Con (Texas: Buess, 1975), 39. 

80 Roger Beardmore, ed., Shepherding God's Flock: Essays on Leadership in the Local Church 
(Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 193. 

81 Nee, Authority, 33, 36. 


These men and women thought their insubordination was against Moses and not in 
any way connected to God. They thought they had successfully separated the two. 82 

Another use of the Old Testament that Bevere adopts is his paraphrase of Numbers 23:23. 
Bevere writes that the verse can read: 'There is no witchcraft that works against God's 
people, nor any divination against His Church!' 83 But, as Under Cover goes on to say, those 
outside the church and the 'covering' of its leaders are subject to, and in danger of, spiritual 

First Samuel chapter 15 details the disobedience of Saul to the prophet Samuel's request. 
Contrary to the express command from the prophet of God, Saul spared the life of the king of 
Amalek and also kept the best of the cattle alive. We read Saul's attempt at justifying his 
actions and Samuel's response: 

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the 
voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat 
of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of 
idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as 
king (1 Sam 15:22-23). 

Bevere's interpretation of this reveals a very puzzling hermeneutic as well as a 
misunderstanding of how to translate biblical Hebrew into modern English. He writes: 

Samuel directly linked rebellion with witchcraft: 'For rebellion is as the sin of 
witchcraft.' Notice the words is as in this verse are in italic type. This is common in 
both the King James and the New King James Versions when words are used that did 
not appear in the original text. They were added later by the translators to lend clarity. 
A more accurate translation would have used only the word z's. 84 

82 Bevere, Under, 145. 

83 Ibid., 72. 

84 Bevere cites Jay P. Green. The actual translation of this verse offered by Green puts the word 'is' in 
brackets, meaning Green's translation reads, 'For rebellion the sin of witchcraft.' Jay P. Green, ed., The 
Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-Greek-English (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 750. 


For Bevere, the Hebrew phrasing of 'For rebellion is witchcraft': 

...clarifies the context of this scripture. It is one thing to liken rebellion to witchcraft, 
but an entirely different issue to say it is actually witchcraft. Obviously a true 
Christian would never knowingly practice witchcraft. But how many are under its 
influence unknowingly because of the deception of rebellion? 85 

A look at every other major Bible translation reveals that not one has rendered the passage 
to say that rebellion equals witchcraft. Three examples will suffice: 'For rebellion is like the 
sin of divination,' (New International Version); 'For rebellion is as the sin of divination,' 
(English Standard Version); 'For rebellion is as the sin of divination,' (New American 
Standard Version). It is hard to disagree with what one commentator has written: 

I understand the temptation for pastors and authors to cherry pick translations that 
best suit the point they are trying to make. What Bevere does here isn't so innocent. 
He is ignoring what the church plainly knows. It is dishonest for someone with no 
training in interpreting Hebrew or Greek to claim that every single modern translation 
of a particular passage is wrong. 86 

There is a standard interpretation of this passage: Saul did not realise how serious his 
mistake was and Samuel was pointing out to Saul how serious it actually was by comparing it 
to other things that Saul would consider serious. Clarification of this verse's context would 
take into account the basic facts that Saul was the king of Israel who was disobeying explicit 
instructions from a prophet of the God of Israel. In other words: 

Covering theology attempts to equate God's direct command to Saul to the relatively 
minor decisions of a church leader. The two don't carry the same weight. 87 

Tyumura reminds us that both verses 22 and 23 of this chapter 'constitute poetic prose, 

Bevere, Under, 67. 
Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 
Ibid., n.p. 


which exhibits characteristic features of parallelism.' 88 There is consensus among biblical 
scholars (and Bible translators) that when a simile is used in biblical Hebrew, the two words 
are placed together with no words in-between. An English translation needs to add 'as is' or 
'is like' to make sense. Tyumura also cites Baldwin's interpretive summary which has 
nothing to do with how a believer relates to a church leader: ceremonial can make up for a rebellious attitude to God and his commandments, 
because obstinate resistance to God exalts self-will to the place of authority. 89 

Bevere's peculiar translation will surely cause fear for the Christian who believes in 
covering theology. Bevere teaches the Christian that 'witchcraft directly opens one to the 
demonic realm,' and that there can be 'total ignorance of what one is doing to complete 
understanding and awareness of the powers of darkness involved.' 90 For Bevere, the sin of 
witchcraft equals the sin of rebelling against God, which equals the sin of rebelling against 
his delegated authority. And, 'in essence witchcraft can be practised either with total 
unawareness or with complete knowledge.' 91 In talking anecdotally about his contact with 
those who have been involved in the occult, Bevere writes of how witchcraft covens initiate 
individuals by encouraging them to rebel. He summarises: 

They are taught the more you rebel, the more power you obtain, and they seek power. 
This is true because rebellion is witchcraft. The more they rebel, the more they give 
legal access to demonic powers to influence, control, and empower their lives. By 
rebelling against the order and laws of God and His delegated authority, they 
knowingly grant legal access to the controlling demonic realm. 92 

The story of Saul's rejection as king over Israel, as a result of the disobedience with the 
Amalekites and their cattle, leads on to the familiar narrative of David's sojourn in the 

wilderness to preserve his life as Saul is intent on ending it. Teachers of covering theology 

38 David Toshio Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 401 . 

89 Tsumura, Samuel, 401. 

90 Bevere, Under, 67. 
Ibid., 68. 

92 Bevere, Under, 68. 


use this story in an attempt to convince believers that they should remain submitted to their 
teachers/pastors/church leaders even if we are suffering under this authority. First Samuel 24 
has Saul pursuing David with three thousand men to the desert of En Gedi. We read: 

He [Saul] came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to 
relieve himself David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, 'This is 
the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, T will give your enemy into your 
hands for you to deal with as you wish.' Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a 
corner of Saul's robe. Afterwards, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a 
corner of his robe. He said to his men, 'The LORD forbid that I should do such a 
thing to my master, the LORD'S anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the 
anointed of the LORD.' (1 Sam 24:3-6). 

The misinterpretation of this passage, that covering teaching embodies, sees in David's 
refusal to kill Saul an example of biblical submission. 93 However, it is clear that for David 
'touching the LORD'S anointed' simply means not physically harming the king of Israel. A 
few verses later in the chapter, David calls out to Saul ' . . .the LORD gave you into my hands 
in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, T will not lift my hand 
against my master, because he is the LORD'S anointed' (1 Sam 24:10). 

The story of David fleeing and Saul pursuing actually shows a lack of submission from 
David to the king. David also instructed the king's son, Jonathan, to lie to his father. He 
became the leader of four hundred men 'who were in distress or in debt or discontented' (1 
Sam 20:6-7; 22:2). Such a group of malcontents, disobeying their king by not surrendering 
their leader, is hardly the pretext to teach biblical submission as Bevere sees it; nor are the 
rest of the Old Testament typologies fitting examples to use in teaching about relationships 
within the New Testament Church of God. 

Ibid., 169-175. 



One thing that can certainly be said about David is that he suffered under an unreasonable 
leader. This is an essential part of Bevere's teaching in Under Cover. If a believer remains 
submitted to an unreasonable leader, they will inherit God's blessing through that leader 
because of their own submission. Bevere begins this argument by saying that in the opening 
chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah (the soon-to-be mother of Samuel) was blessed by the words of 
the priest Eli because she responded to his error of discernment in respect. As Hannah is 
praying for a child 'in bitterness of soul' we read: 

As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in 
her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was 
drunk and said to her, 'How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your 
wine' (1 Sam 1:12-14). 

Bevere then interprets Eli's mistake as showing that he was 'insensitive to her 
pain... spiritually numb. ..a fleshly, insensitive priest.' 94 He gives his own modern-day example 
of Hannah's travail in Jerusalem: 

How would you have responded if your pastor had accused you of evil at the moment 
of your greatest pain? Perhaps you would have thought, This guy is the head pastor? 
Doesn 't he know I am fasting and crying out to God? What an insensitive, unspiritual 
jerk! This is the last time I will come here to worship! 95 

For Bevere, the focus is on Hannah's reaction to Eli's mistake: a mistake he is at pains to 

94 Bevere, Under, 115. This eisegesis results in character assassination. We only learn in chapter 2 of 1 
Samuel that it is Eli's sons who are wicked. Once Eli hears of this he rebukes them. Although Eli is rebuked by 
a prophet, the biblical record shows none of the attributes Bevere gives to him. Eli is still entrusted to raise up 
Samuel to hear the Lord. 

95 Ibid., 114. 


stress is hurtful, insensitive, fleshly and unspiritual. Bevere cites Hannah's denial, and 

She responded with respect and honour. Even though his actions and assessment far 
from deserved it, she honoured the position of authority on his life... If anything was 
wrong with the leader, God would deal with it. 96 

Bevere says that the blessing of Samuel was a response to her submission to her church 
leader: 'God used a fleshly, insensitive priest to release the words to bring forth the 
conception of a promise. A closed womb was opened, and life came out of darkness. 97 The 
behaviour of the leader is irrelevant compared to the fact of his office. 98 Bevere says: 

...when God places His authority on a person, no matter his private or personal 
behaviour, we may still receive if we look beyond it and honour him as sent from 
God... Hannah knew what Jesus later confirmed, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who 
receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who 

sent Me.' 99 

First Samuel 1 :9-20 shows that it was Hannah's submission to God, and not to any leader 
or office, which gave her the blessing. Hannah is praying to God, and making vows to God. 
The priest Eli, upon realising she is not drunk, says 'May the God of Israel grant you what 
you have asked of him,' (1 Sam 1:17). We are told that when Elkanah slept with Hannah 'the 
LORD remembered her' and, of course, the very name Samuel means 'heard of God.' 
Hannah testifies that his name is Samuel 'because I asked the LORD for him' (1 Sam 1 :20). 
Similarly, her prayer of thanksgiving in 1 Samuel chapter 2 does not mention the priest Eli - 
she thanks God for the blessing she is to receive. 

96 Ibid., 115. 

97 Ibid., 115. 

93 Although Bevere does say 'blatant corruption or sin' means we 'should not continue to drink from his 

defiled fountain.' Bevere, Under, 117. 
99 Ibid., 116. 


Such is the pivotal place of 'delegated authority' in covering theology that the Biblical 
story of God blessing Hannah with Samuel becomes the story of God blessing Hannah with 
Samuel because she obeyed a leader - and, in Bevere's view, an unspiritual, insensitive and 
fleshly one. 

Bevere's focus on the less-than-perfect behaviour of Eli, corresponds to a lack of focus on 
the character and godly qualities of church leaders in Under Cover. Instead the focus is on 
their office and the subsequent demands on believers to submit to that office. Both the 
example of David with Saul, and Hannah with Eli, are used by Bevere to promote submission 
to the office of a church leader no matter what their personal qualities or characteristics may 
be. The New Testament, however, exhorts us to subject ourselves to one another - 'Submit to 
one another out of reverence for Christ' (Eph 5:21). We are to subject ourselves in love to 
those who have displayed noble character and sacrificial service. 100 

Chapter 13 of Under Cover is titled 'Unfair Treatment' and in it Bevere writes: 

Spiritual authority is promised to those who suffer like Christ. The greater hardship 
you endure, the greater the authority God entrusts to you. Again, you see that God sets 
you up for a blessing when you encounter unreasonable authority. But will you 
respond correctly and receive the blessing, or will you become resentful and bitter? 101 

If a believer suffers under an unjust leader and responds correctly (submit and obey) they 
will receive a blessing. Added to this, Bevere teaches that God judges a believer on how 
faithfully they followed authority and not on the fruit of their life. After pointing out the truth 
that 'leaders will be judged for their decisions,' Bevere goes on to write about 'our judgment' 
in relation to that of leaders: 

100 See, for example, 1 Cor 16:10-11, 15-18; Phil 2:29-30; 1 Thes 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17. 

101 Bevere, Under, 177. 


On the other hand, our judgment will be relative to our submission, for authority is of 
God. To resist delegated authority is to resist God's authority. We should not take 
upon ourselves the pressure to discern beforehand whether leaders are right or not. 
Nor should we judge after the fact. This is not our burden, but God's. He alone knows 
and can change hearts as He so desires. 102 

The teaching is exactly the same as that found in Watchman Nee, who says in Spiritual 

People will perhaps argue, 'What if authority is wrong?' The answer is, if God dares 
to entrust his authority to men, then we can dare to obey. Whether the one in authority 
is right or wrong does not concern us, since he has to be responsible directly to God. 
The obedient needs only to obey; the Lord will not hold us responsible for any 
mistaken obedience, rather will he hold the delegated authority responsible for his 
erroneous act. Insubordination, however, is rebellion, and for this the one under 
authority must answer to God. 103 

Bevere's chapter 'Unfair Treatment' begins with the message that God's goal for each of 
us as a believer is to 'break us'. He cites Psalm 34, 'The LORD is near to those who have a 
broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit' (Ps 34:18), and Psalm 51: 

For You do no desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt 
offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart - 
these, O God, You will not despise (Ps 51:16-17). 

For Bevere, however, this 'broken heart' which is a 'prerequisite for intimacy with the 
Lord' 104 is linked with a broken will in relation to submission to authority. Bevere even uses 
the analogy of a warhorse: 

A warhorse is not fit for service until his will is broken.... To be broken does not mean 
to be weakened. It has to do with submission to authority... As with horses, our 
breaking process deals with our response to authority. God customizes the perfect 
process for each of us, and this always entails some form of leadership. 105 


Ibid., 147. 
'Nee, Authority, 71. 
Bevere, Under, 160. 
Ibid., 161. 


The original meaning of being broken before the Lord himself, has itself been broken and 
moulded into being broken before the will of God's delegated authority - the human leader or 
pastor. In fact, Bevere will use the biblical injunction of 1 Peter as an instruction for church 
members to submit to church leaders. The scripture says: 

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake... 
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, 
but also to the harsh (1 Pet 2:13,18). 

Bevere explains that he will put this in 'modern vernacular': 

Servants could be identified as employees, students, church members, or civilians. 
Masters could be employers, teachers, church leaders, or governmental leaders.... God 
commands us to be submissive not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh! 106 

Bevere then selects three other translations of the same passage. The New Century 
Versions reads, 'Not only those who are good and kind, but also those who are dishonest'; the 
Contemporary English Version has, 'Do this, not only to those who are kind and thoughtful, 
but also to those who are cruel'; while the New American Standard Bible says, 'Not only to 
those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.' According to Bevere, 
the Scriptures teach that a church member is to submit to a church leader even if that leader is 
harsh, dishonest, cruel and unreasonable. Bevere avoids the scriptural qualifications for 
church leaders entirely. There are two lists in the New Testament that describe the qualities 
that make one fit to be an elder. The Revised Standard Version will be quoted and the first 
list is found in 1 Timothy: 

Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, 
dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not 
quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, 
keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not 

Ibid., 162. 


know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church? He must 
not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the 
condemnation of the devil; moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he 
may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Tim 3:1-7). 

The second list lies in Paul's letter to Titus and reads: 

...appoint elders in every town as I directed you, men who are blameless, married only 
once, whose children are believers and not open to the charge of being profligate or 
insubordinate. For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be 
arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, 
a lover of goodness, master of himself, upright, holy, and self-controlled; he must 
hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in 
sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it (Titus 1:5-9). 

Author James W. Garrett points out that the two lists 'demonstrate that Paul was more 
concerned with character and temperament than he was with ability. Only two of the twenty 
listed traits refer to ability: all of the rest are character and temperament traits.' 107 

Bevere uses the example of Christ himself to encourage us to submit to authorities. Using 
the Amplified Bible's version of 1 Pet 2:21, 'For even to this you were called [it is 
inseparable from your vocation]. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] 
example, so that you should follow in His footsteps,' Bevere explains how the sufferings of 
Christ are our example: 

How did he suffer? Peter had explained in the previous verse: unfair treatment from 
delegated authorities. At times, God places us in situations where we receive 
unreasonable treatment from authorities, as He did with David, Joseph, Daniel, the 
apostle Paul, and others. Our calling is to handle it correctly, and Jesus left us His 
personal example of how to do it. 108 


James W. Garrett, "New Testament Church Leadership in the Local Church," n.p. [cited 21 November 
2011]. Online: 
108 Bevere, Under, 163. 


Because Christ never defended himself before authorities, so likewise we should not 
defend ourselves before our authorities - i.e. church leaders. The link with 'divine covering' 
is made explicit: 

Why didn't Jesus defend Himself? The reason: to remain under His Father's judgment 
and thus His protection... When we refuse to defend ourselves, we are hidden under 
the hand of God's grace and judgement... In contrast, those who defend themselves 
come under the jurisdiction of their accusers and their judgment and thus forfeit 
divine intervention. 109 

An obvious problem with using Jesus' relationship with the authorities of his day as our 
example is that Jesus was not always submissive to those in authority. Matthew's gospel 
details Christ's indignation and righteous anger with the religious authorities of His day: the 
Pharisees. He calls them 'hypocrites,' 'blind guides,' 'blind fools,' and 'children of hell' (Mat 

Again, Bevere's methodology of claiming a direct word from God to support his teaching 
is used - this time in a vision: 

I recall a situation where I defended myself with one in authority over me. God 
afterward showed me a brief vision in my heart. I saw the Lord standing by me with 
His hands behind His back. He was refrained from bringing the aid I needed. Once I 
stopped justifying myself, He was at work on my behalf. 110 

Regarding the idea that Christians are judged according to their submission to church 
leaders, Bevere has already asserted that God spoke directly to him during his time as a youth 
pastor. According to Bevere, the Holy Spirit said: 

Ibid., 164. 
Ibid., 164. 


John, when you stand before Me in judgment for the time period that I have had you 
serve this pastor, you will not first give an account of how many youth you led to 
salvation in Orlando, Florida. You will first be judged on how faithful you were to the 
pastor I've put you under... In fact, you could win all the youth in Orlando and stand 
before Me and be judged for not submitting to and being faithful to the pastor I put 
you under} 11 

Bevere's assertion that 'our judgment will be relative to our submission, for authority is of 
God,' 112 comes against manifold scriptures that directly contradict this. Scripture nowhere 
teaches that a Christian is judged by God according to how they submitted to delegated 
authority. 113 

Bevere ends the chapter with 1 Pet 3:18 and 4:1 - the exhortation that we are to arm 

ourselves for the similar sufferings Christ experienced, 'which in context of his epistle is 

unfair treatment from authorities.' 114 At one level this is true: Peter is writing to 'the exiles of 

the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia' (1 Pet 1:1), many of whom 

were undergoing various levels of persecution from authorities. However, these authorities 

(as in Romans 12) are civil or governing authorities. Peter's epistle is not written so that 

'ordinary' members of the church of God should submit and not defend themselves against 

harshness from fellow believers who also happen to be church leaders / pastors / elders. The 

verse from Peter which instructs servants to be submissive to their masters goes on to ask, 

'For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently?' (1 Pet 

2:20). Bevere avoids this verse which talks of a physical beating from a master to a slave. 

Clearly, the contemporary culture of slavery, part of the social and historical context in which 

Peter is writing, is being referred to. For Bevere to add the words 'church employee' and 

Ibid., 18. 
Ibid., 147. 

113 See, for example, Eph 2:8,9; Rom 2:6; 1 Cor 3:10-17; John 15:5-6; Matt 7:18-20. 

114 Bevere, Under, 176. 


'church leader' to the terms 'servant' and 'master' is unjustifiable. 


Bevere's penultimate chapter is called 'Great Faith' and teaches that the level of faith a 
believer has is linked with the level of his submission to a church leader. In essence, this is a 
natural outflow of the covering theology espoused. With God's delegated authority (the 
church leader) being God's representative for the believer, and with submission to God's 
delegated authority (the church leader) being the same as submission to God, all blessings - 
including faith - flow from God through the delegated authority to the believer. Bevere writes 
that 'the authority in which we walk is directly proportional to our submission to authority. 
The greater our level of submission, the greater our faith. 115 

With leaders representing God, any biblical parable or incident that talks of God's 
authority means that we can interpret such authority as the authority in a church leader. This 
is the case in Bevere's treatment of Christ's words concerning 'faith as small as a mustard 
seed' in Luke 17, and in the incident concerning the centurion's faith in Matthew 8. Bevere's 
interpretation of the passage in Luke 17 is detailed as a direct revelation from God. 116 The 
apostles say to Christ, 'Increase our faith!' to which he replies, 'If you have faith as small as a 
mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it 
will obey you,' (Luke 17:5-7). 

Ibid., 214. 
116 Bevere writes, 'A few years ago I went into my office at 5:30am to pray as I'd done so many mornings 

before. Yet before I could begin, I heard the Holy Spirit's directive: Go to Luke chapter 17 and start reading 
from verse 5. ' Bevere, Under, 210. 


Bevere explains that 'faith is given to each and every believer... We were allotted a 
measure of faith (Rom 12:3). This faith is in seed form, and it is our responsibility to cultivate 
and grow it. How does it grow?' 117 To answer this question, Bevere turns to the story of the 
servant in Luke 17. The servant performs his duties, 'the things that were commanded him' 
but the master in the story does not thank the servant - he has simply done what was expected 
of him. In his teaching, Christ then says 'So likewise you, when you have done all those 
things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what 
was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). Bevere comments: 

As I read, the words done all and commanded jumped off the page. Jesus connected 
this servant's obedience to his master with our obedience to God. In doing so He 
made three significant points related to increased faith. 118 

Bevere's three points are that 'there is a direct connection between faith and obedience to 
authority,' that 'faith increases only when we complete what we're commanded to do,' and 
that 'an attitude of true humility is of utmost importance.' 119 One can easily deduce, after the 
teaching on delegated authority, how easily a causal link can be then taught between obeying 
authority (i.e. a church leader), doing what is commanded (obedience) and displaying 
humility (not questioning a church leader and, if need be, suffering under a church leader). 
Bevere writes: 

If you desire great faith, then obey God's authority, whether direct or delegated, all 
the way to completion. Your faith is directly proportionate to your obedience! 120 


Ibid., 211. 
Ibid., 212. 
Ibid., 213. 
Ibid., 220. 


Not one scholarly commentator on these verses interprets Christ's teaching (most often 
known as 'The Parable of the Dutiful Servant') as a message on obeying church leaders. It is 
only if everything in Scripture is viewed through the prism of Bevere's interpretation of 
Romans 13 that such a conclusion can be reached. Bevere claims that the direct connection 
between faith and obedience is also seen in the account of the centurion in Matthew 8. When 
Christ enters Capernaum, a centurion asks him to help his servant. Jesus says he will come, 
but the centurion responds: 

Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and 
my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under 
me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my 
servant, 'Do this,' and he does it (Matt 8:8-9). 

Jesus is said to be astonished at the centurion's words, and responds with praise for his 
faith - 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith' (Matt 
8:10). As one commentator says, 'For millennia, Christian interpretation of this passage has 
centred around how the Centurion had so much faith that he didn't need Jesus to come into 
his house.' 121 For Bevere, and the proponents of covering theology, however, the key verse 
and message of the passage is in the centurion's words, 'For I also am a man under authority, 
having soldiers under me.' Bevere explains: 

The Roman officer communicated to Jesus that he had the respect and submission of 
his soldiers because he was submitted to his commander. Therefore, he had the 
backing of the authority of his commander, who in turn had the backing of the 
authority of Rome... He said, 'For I also...'' He recognised Jesus was a Servant of God 
under His kingdom's authority... The greatest faith Jesus encountered in more than 
thirty-three years on earth was not John the Baptist's or His mother Mary's.. ..What 
made his faith so great? Because he understood and walked in submission to authority. ni 


Tebay, "Covering," n.p. Of course, the contrast between Jewish and Gentile faith is also seen here, as 
is the radical decision of Jesus to go to the house of a Gentile - (and a Roman centurion at that). 
122 Bevere, Under, 214 [author's own italics]. 


As one writer puts it, 'what weight hangs from so few words!' 123 Again, there is not one 
scholarly commentator who concludes that the passage teaches that faith increases if we obey 
our church leaders. The centurion's great faith is seen in that he believes Christ has the power 
to heal the sick person from a distance. Ron Burks summarises it well: 

The central theme of this encounter is Jesus' recognition, in front of unbelieving Jews, 
of a Gentile's faith in God... This example is not support for a system of church 
authority, but is rather an encouragement for us to believe Jesus when he gives us his 
word. No military model of church government is supported by the New Testament. 124 

Bevere's teaching is exactly the same as Derek Prince's in Discipleship, Shepherding, 
Commitment. Prince writes: 

Because the centurion was the representative of the Roman emperor, forming part of a 
chain of command... every command he gave to a soldier or servant was invested with 
the emperor's authority... Thus, the centurion's statement, T also am a man set under 
authority,' sums up the scriptural basis for all true authority. In order to exercise 
authority, a person must first be 'under authority.' 125 

By arguing that there is a message in this passage about being submitted to our ultimate 
authority, and by using Imperial Rome or the 'delegated authority' of a church leader in this 
role, we have replaced Jesus as the ultimate authority. 

Linked to this message of great faith being a fruit of great submission is Bevere's 
anecdotal teaching that submission to church leaders results in more miracles of healing. 
Citing John 1:11-12, 'He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as 
received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,' Bevere writes of the 

Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 
Burks, Damaged, 136. 
Prince, Discipleship, 16. 


'fundamental truth' that this passage holds. This truth is that 'many times God will send us 
what we need in a package we don't want.' 126 Bevere links the 'presentation' or 'package' 
that God sent in Christ with the church leader. Just as Jesus said, 'You know neither Me nor 
my Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also,' (John 8:19) so 
Bevere says that 'those who know the Father recognize His authority manifested in those He 
sends! It doesn't have to be explained, taught or proved.' 127 He records: 

This explains why a minister can go to Africa and see blind eyes opened, the disabled 
walk, and the deaf hear, then come to America and see only a few headaches or minor 
back problems healed. I could give numerous examples. In Africa, the man or woman 
is received as sent by God, no matter the appearance or packaging. Because the 
person is received and honoured this way, the precious African people are blessed by 
God's power and His presence. In America if the packaging is not just right, honour 
is withheld. It is proportional. To the degree you receive and honour the messenger as 
sent by God is the degree you receive from God through the person. Dishonour, and 
this will be your reception. Give great honour, and honour will be your portion. 128 

There is not one scholarly commentator or theologian who teaches that people can be 
healed if they submit to the church leader or healer. While a theology of healing may be 
complex and nuanced, what is certainly true is that the Scriptures nowhere suggest what 
Bevere explicitly teaches. Faith in God is always the prerequisite 129 and the 'gifts of healing' 
are given to the Church by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:9). 


In Chapter 15 of Under Cover, Bevere writes that the Christian is to remain submitted to a 
church leader even if that leader does not practise what he preaches. Christ says in Matthew 
23 that 'the scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses' seat [of authority]. So observe and practise all 

126 Bevere, Under, 121. 

Ibid., 122. 


Ibid., 122. 
129 See, for example, Mark 6:5; Luke 8:48; 9:41. 


they tell you; but do not do what they do, for they preach, but do not practice' (Matt 23: 1-3 
amplified bible). For Bevere, this shows that 'Jesus commanded submission even to corrupt 
leaders who didn't live what they preached. He pointed the multitudes to the authority upon 
them, not to their personal lives.' 130 

Did the early church obey the authority that was upon the Pharisees and religious leaders 
of their day? Are we taught in the Bible to always obey our church leaders? To answer this 
we must look at what might be called the lynchpin verse of covering theology and the 
Shepherding Movement - Hebrews chapter 13, verse 17. Bevere cites the New King James 
Version of this verse in Chapter 1 1 titled 'Obedience and Submission.' It reads: 

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, 
as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that 
would be unprofitable for you (Heb 13: 17). 131 

He explains the verse in this way: 

The writer distinctly ordered us to do two things: (1) to obey those who rule over us; 
and (2) to be submissive to those who rule over us. 132 

There then follows an anecdote of a time when Bevere did not feel spiritually fed through 
the messages and teaching of the pastor he was working for at the time. He became critical of 
the pastor and was 'surrounded by friends who were as critical as I was.' 133 Again, there is 
direct revelation through the spoken voice of the Holy Spirit, a voice which teaches Bevere 
the difference between obedience and submission. With the divine voice italicised, Bevere 

130 Bevere, Under, 206. 

131 Ibid., 130. It is interesting that Bevere uses the New King James Version. Steven Lambert believes that 
'one factor contributing to the excessive authoritarian interpretation of this verbiage is the rendering proffered 
by the Seventeenth Century translators commissioned by King James of England.' [Lambert, Captivation, 82]. 
Lambert reminds us of the historical context of the King James translation when state and religious rulers were 
one and the same, or at the least both ecclesiastical and state authority were sanctioned by each other. 

132 Bevere, Under, 131. 
Ibid., 132. 


writes of a meeting in which he sat listening to the pastor whom he had been so critical of: 

As I was pondering my present starvation from not being fed, the Holy Spirit firmly 
informed me, The problem is not with your pastor. The problem is with you! ...You 
keep bringing up the lack of being fed. The book of Isaiah states, 'If you are willing 
and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall 
be devoured by the sword' ...You obey everything you 're told to do in this ministry, 
but I did not say, 'If you are obedient, you shall eat the good of the land, ' I said, 'If 

you are willing and obedient ' and willingness deals with your attitude. And your 

attitude stinks!... the reason you are not being fed (eating of the good of My kingdom) 
in this church is that though you are obedient, you are not willing! 134 

Bevere then writes that his 'eyes were open,' he 'repented right away' and 'the heavens 
opened up, and I was astounded by the revelation God gave me through my pastor's 
teaching.' 135 His own teaching from the episode is given as the difference between obedience 
and submission: 

When we are not submissive to our delegated authorities, we resist God's authority 
because they are appointed by Him! God wants us to be able to freely enjoy and 
benefit from the banqueting table He prepares for us through those He provides for 
us... Obedience deals with our responsive actions toward authority. Submission deals 
with our attitude toward authority. This is where most of us miss it... For this reason 
the writer of Hebrews exhorted us not only to obey those over us, but also to be 
submissive. 136 

Bevere uses the New International Version of Hebrews 13:17 ('Obey your leaders and 
submit to their authority') to ask, 'Where do we draw the line? Does God expect us to obey 
authorities, no matter what they tell us to do?' 137 The answer is: 

The only time - and I want to emphasize the only exception in which we are not to 
obey authorities - is when they tell us to do something that directly contradicts what 
God has stated in His Word. In other words, we are released from obedience only 
when leaders tell us to sin... Whether the authority is civil, family, church, or social, 
God admonishes a submissive regard to be our attitude, and we are to obey in action, 
unless authority tells us to do what is clearly seen in Scripture as sin. Let me 
emphasize the word clearly... the believers did not obey when commanded to deny 
Christ, murder, worship other gods, or directly subvert a command of Jesus. They 


Ibid., 132. 


Ibid., 134. 


Ibid., 134. 


Ibid., 135. 


were not gray areas or judgment calls. 


The first point that must be made concerning Heb 13:17 is that the New International 
Version inserts a word that is not a part of the Greek text. It says, 'obey your leaders and 
submit to their authority.' 139 Without a knowledge of the original Greek, the reader would 

have no idea that the Greek word evxousi.a, which we translate as 'authority', is nowhere to 
be find in any ancient Greek manuscript. Other translations amend the New International 
Version's unfortunate addition: 'Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping 
watch over your souls...' (English Standard Version); 'Obey your leaders and submit to them, 
for they keep watch over your souls...' (New American Standard Bible). 

Even without the word 'authority' the text obviously says that we should 'obey' and 
'submit' to our leaders. 140 Again, knowledge of New Testament Greek reveals an important 

facet of the text. The Greek word which is translated 'obey' in the passage is pei.qw which 
usually means 'persuade.' 141 One commentator has conceded that because of the way the 
word is used in the sentence, it can 'legitimately be translated 'obey' which is why most 
Bibles do,' but that the word 'still carries the nuance of obedience via persuasion rather than 
obedience to authority.' 142 This nuance is, of course, totally missing in the one word 'obey' 

which our English translations use. It should also be noted that the Greek form of pei.qw used 

138 Ibid., 135. 

139 It is strange that the latest revision of the New International Version (201 1) now removes the word 
'obey' but retains the addition of 'authority': 'Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority...' 

140 Bevere does not deal with the fact that the plural of 'leader' is used despite his attempts with the 
Jerusalem council to insist that the church always has one man as the leader. 

141 In fact, pei,qw is the Greek goddess of persuasion, seduction and charming speech. 

142 Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 


in the text is the present imperative middle form - pei.qesqe. This gives the meaning 'permit 

oneself to be persuaded' or 'yield to persuasion.' Timothy Willis argues that pei.qw should be 
translated 'be persuaded' and that translators have traditionally 'read a little too much 
Western Civilisation onto the text. ' 143 

The passage does not exhort us to respect authority, nor does it mention delegated 
authority, nor does it teach blind obedience to any church leader or leaders. The rest of the 
passage points to persuasion. The Revised Standard Version reads: 

Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as 
men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that 
would be of no advantage to you (Heb 13:17). 

The reasons given for the believer to 'obey' or 'be persuaded' in regards to the leaders are 
that they are 'keeping watch over your souls'; they are people who 'will have to give 
account'; the believer is exhorted to 'let them do this joyfully'; and finally that not being 
persuaded by them 'would be of no advantage.' Nowhere are there warnings of not obeying 
God through not obeying God's delegated authority. And nowhere are there warnings or 
threats of spiritual deception or satanic attack if the leaders are not obeyed. Steven Lambert 
points out that: 

...this Greek word translated obey in many English versions, peitho, is closely related 
to the word pisteuo, which means to trust. ..the difference in the meanings of the two 
words is that the peitho (persuasion-obedience) is produced by pisteuo (trust). In other 
words, the obedience spoken of here in the original language is more of a willing 
compliance and cooperation based on persuasion resulting from established trust and 
confidence. 144 

cited in Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 
Lambert, Captivation, 80. 


Bevere does not include the other relevant portion of Hebrews 13 which occurs just ten 
verses prior. Verse seven reads, 'Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. 
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith' (Heb 13:7). The leaders who 
are to be remembered and who are yielded to joyfully are also the leaders with exemplary 
conduct and faith. The leaders' trust and ability to persuade is through merited esteem and not 
through any kind of positional office. John Calvin wrote: 

...the apostle is only concerned with those who faithfully exercise their office. Those 
who have nothing except the title, and indeed those who abuse the title of pastor to 
destroy the Church, deserve little reverence and even less faith. The apostle says this 
expressly in saying that they watch for your souls, because this does not apply to any 
except those who are true rulers, and who are in fact what they are called. The papists 
who use this as a foundation for the tyranny of their idol are doubly foolish. 145 

Unlike Bevere, positional authority is not even acknowledged by Calvin. Instead, as in the 
requirements for eldership seen in 1 Timothy and Titus, character and conduct are all. Calvin 
was well aware that if positional authority were the ultimate authority, the whole Reformation 
was a rebellion against God's delegated authorities. Indeed, every Protestant denomination or 
church grouping (including Bevere's own church) is the spiritual descendant of somebody 
who has not obeyed a church leader. 

There is another Greek word that is translated 'obey' and that word is peiqarce,w. It is 
found in the account of Peter and the other apostles preaching the gospel despite the express 
command of the high priest. Acts 5:27-29 reads: 

Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be 
questioned by the high priest. 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,' he 
said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make 
us guilty of this man's blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey 
God rather than men! ' 

John Calvin, Hebrews and 1 & 2 Peter (CNTC 12; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 1 12. 


The word peiqarce,w is used to refer to obedience to magistrates or civil authorities but is 
never used when referring to church leaders. It is not the word that is used in Heb 13:17. It 
appears in Titus 3:1, 'Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be 
obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good..' Again, the obedience is to civil magistrates 
and authorities and it is qualified by being ready to do 'whatever is good.' Blind obedience to 
any form of leadership or government is never an option if what is commanded is against the 
Word of God. 

Not only are we encouraged to 'be persuaded by' our leaders in Heb 13:17, but we are 

also encouraged to 'be submissive.' The Greek word is if Frank Viola reminds us that 

the Greek word most often translated 'submit' in the New Testament is ifpota,ssw which is 
better translated 'subjection'. He writes of subjection being 'a voluntary attitude of giving 
into, cooperating with, and yielding to the admonition or advice of another,' which has 
'nothing to do with control or hierarchical power' but is 'simply an attitude of childlike 
openness in yielding to others.' 146 Mary Alice Chrnalogar concurs and writes of the word 
used for 'submit' in Heb 13:17 by citing a popular reference tool for Bevere - Vine's 
Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words: 

The word used here for 'submit' is HUPEIKO... [defined by Vine as] 'to retire, or 
withdraw.' The sense is one of 'yielding' or 'keeping out of the way' rather than 
'following an order.' The author of Hebrews is actually saying, 'Don't hinder or 
obstruct the leaders in doing their jobs, because they have to give an account to the 
Lord.' 147 

Bevere's interpretation of Heb 13:17 is of always obeying and submitting to church 

Viola, Reimagining, 210-21 1. 
Chrnalogar, Twisted, 43. 


leaders with the 'only exception' being if they 'clearly' direct us to sin - and the examples of 
sin he gives are the extremes of denying Christ, murdering and worshipping other gods. 
Hebrews 13:17 has been called 'the chestnut verse of the cults' 148 and, if Bevere's is the 
correct interpretation, one can see the reason behind its frequent citation from Shepherding 
and covering teachers. Astonishingly for an international Bible teacher who teaches covering, 
Bevere claims only a vague awareness of recent events in Charismatic church history. In the 
only paragraph of the entire book which mentions the modern Shepherding Movement he 

I understand that a movement within the church called discipleship got out of hand in 
the 1970s, and submission to leaders teetered out of balance. People were asking 
pastors about whether they could go on vacations, buy a specific car or other major 
item, or marry a certain individual. I wasn't involved so I don't know exactly how far 
overboard it actually went, but some who were involved said that it ended up being 
unscriptural. 149 

Such casual and unclear vagaries regarding recent church history contrast with Bevere's 
firm and clear revelation that we should always obey church leaders unless - and only unless - 
they are clearly commanding us to sin. Ironically, the three examples Bevere uses of the 
Shepherding Movement (where to holiday, what to buy, who to marry) are not examples of a 
church leader directing a believer to sin. But Bevere indicates, with no other explanation, that 
this is somehow 'out of balance' submission. No examples or further elaboration on the 
Shepherding Movement and its excesses is made. 

The Greek word translated 'obey' in Acts 5:27-29 does not have the same connotations of 
'be persuaded by' that are found in pei.qw. Just as Luke does not give us an example of total 

148 Vrankovich, "Leadership," n.p. 

149 Bevere, Under, 187. 


obedience and submission to the religious authorities of the day, so Paul never teach 
consistent obedience and submission to those in authority. In the second chapter of Galatians, 
Paul writes to the believers of his meeting with Christ's original apostles and the early church 

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus 
along with me... And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were 
makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) - those, I say, who were of 
repute added nothing to me (Gal 2:1,6). 

No titles are used in Paul's reference to the very first leaders of the church in Jerusalem. 
Leighton Tebay comments: 

It implies that the early government of the church followed the common traditional 
Jewish approach to leadership. There was a council of elders and apostles that was 
largely a group of equals. There would have been some who earned greater influence 
though their wisdom or experience but there was no hierarchy. 150 

Charles Cousar writes that Paul's repetition of the phrase 'those reputed to be 
something' 151 would seem to suggest 'a negative attitude toward the figures at Jerusalem as if 
Paul were sneering, at least slightly, at their prominence and place of esteem.' 152 However, 
Cousar goes on to cite an article by David Hay which argues that Paul is not disparaging the 
early church leaders in this way: 

He is simply telling the Galatians that decisions about apostles should not be made on 
external considerations (literally, 'God does not receive a person's face'). They 
should judge by reality (i.e., conformity of message and life to the gospel), not by 
appearance (i.e., mere rank). For himself, the status of the 'pillar apostles' was not 
so decisive that they could have dissuaded Paul from preaching the message of 
God's unconditional love for the Gentiles. But happily they did not try to do so. 153 

150 Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 

151 The English Standard Version translates it as 'those who seemed to be important.' 

! " Charles B. Cousar, Galatians: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Kentucky: John 

Knox Press, 1982), 41. 
153 Ibid., 42. 


This same chapter of Galatians records Paul's challenge to Peter, one of 'the Twelve' no 
less. The challenge is public. It is clear that Paul is not afraid to question any leader on issues 
concerning the gospel and theological truth: 

But when Peter came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood 
condemned... When I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the 
gospel, I said to Peter before them all (Gal 2: 11,14). 

A similar lack of submission and obedience (although which side is 'guiltier' is open to 
interpretation) is seen in Paul and Barnabas' disagreement in Acts chapter 15. The 
missionaries disagree over whether to take John Mark with them. The Scripture records that 
'there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark 
with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed...' (Acts 15:39-40). 
There is clearly no chain of command as advocated by Shepherding and covering teaching. In 
Bevere's theology, there would be one person who would clearly have the rank to make the 
decision and therefore one of the two (either Barnabas or Paul) is in disobedience to God's 
delegated authority. Luke's inspired recording of the event, however, does not make any 
comment on such things. There is no teaching on why an apostle should be obeyed (nor is 
there any teaching on the consequences if you don't.) Instead, two separate ministries are 
formed over what might be termed an unfortunate human disagreement. 


Why do people follow and submit to teachers of covering theology? And why do teachers 


like Bevere insist that they are giving a greater measure of God's blessing into the Church by 
appropriating its concepts into the life of local fellowships? Bill Ligon, writing 
contemporaneously with the growth of the Shepherding Movement, talks of the natural 
search and need for 'place' within a Christian's life: 

Problems in discipleship have developed because men have not understood this strong 
inner drive to find a place. Not realising the consequences, many have bound 
themselves over to other people simply out of a need to be part of something or 
recognised by somebody. 154 

William K. Kay writes of how the Shepherding Movement was a 'response to growing 
individualism and the directionless flow of the Charismatic movement.' 155 In talking of the 
extreme commitment that the Shepherding Movement birthed, Moore writes that there was a 
failure to realise this psychological need to belong to a group: 

Many of the young people joining the movement had not been adequately parented 
and were looking for an authority figure to fill their need. The movement leaders did 
not understand the co-dependent dynamic in many people. 156 

This is not the blanket answer for all who have been, or who are now a part of, an 
authoritarian church. Ron and Vicki Burks, who were in the Shepherding Movement from 
1969 until 1988, write that 'there was no deep void in our souls that cried out for domination. 
For most of us it just wasn't that simple.' 157 In analysing their own reasons for remaining in 
the Shepherding Movement, they write of the committed relationships with like-minded 
believers that authoritarian churches often produce: 

This committed relationship brings a great sense of security. There is the very real 
feeling, spiritually, of 'coming in out of the rain.' Those who share a commitment to 
the same pastor become close friends, and find commitment extending to one 

Bill Ligon, Discipleship: The Jesus View. An Alternative to Extremism (New Jersey: Logos 
International, 1979), 30. 

155 Kay, Networks, 195. 

156 Moore, Shepherding, 75, 186. 

157 Burks, Damaged, 32. 




In evaluating the reasons why Christians are happy to remain in churches that teach 
covering theology, one must also see a reaction to the age in which we live, an age in which 
the authority of parents, teachers, and civil rulers is often held in contempt. Walter Chantry, 
pondering the fact that 'into many evangelical churches there has recently come an 
overbearing authority which is injuring the true flock of God,' asks whether an increase in 
such teaching is because our generation 'has been so unregulated by proper authority, those 
who seek to rule biblically now run to excesses.' 159 It is a sad fact that covering theology is 
attractive to some people as it fills a spiritual void. In exactly the same way that the 
Shepherding Movement attracted those who wanted more commitment and dedication in 
their Christian walk, so teachers of covering theology can attract zealous Christians who see a 
lack of accountability or leadership in their own local church. 

What might be seen as a commendable zealousness contrasts sharply with another major 
motivation for those under the teachings of covering theology: fear. Throughout Under 
Cover there are anecdotes and explicit warnings that to come out from 'under cover' (i.e., to 
not obey your pastor) is to be at risk of satanic deception, demonic attack, financial 
instability, marital problems, and bitterness of spirit which stops all Christian growth. There 
is no Scripture used to back up such claims, nor can there be: nowhere in the Bible are we 
told that a Christian's submission to authority gives them spiritual protection. Leighton Tebay 
points out: 

This isn't biblical submission because it isn't a voluntary attitude of cooperation. This 

Ibid., 58. 

Beardmore, Flock, 184. 


submission is involuntary because it is coerced by fears and threats. True 
accountability is the by product of true fellowship which is grounded in biblical 
freedom and motivated by love not fear. 160 

Even the subtitle of Under Cover shows the fear-based foundation in Bevere's covering 
theology: The Promise of Protection Under His Authority. If the reader believes that God's 
authority is manifest in the person of his or her church leader, then the obvious inference is 
that there is no promise of protection if we 'come out' from 'under' that authority. Bevere 
writes in Chapter 2: 

If we attempt to live as believers with a cultural mind-set towards authority, we will 
be at best ineffective and at worst positioned for danger. Our provision as well as 
protection could be blocked or even cut off as we disconnect ourselves from the 
Source of true life. 161 

This 'cultural mind-set' that Bevere warns us against is the democratic mind-set which is 
'fine for the nations of the world' but is against God's kingdom principles of 'rank, order, and 
authority.' 162 Bevere cites Job in this chapter: 

If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and 
their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and 
die without knowledge (Job 36:1 1-12). 

We are asked to 'notice the promise: provision and protection in exchange for our 
submission to His authority,' and to also 'note the impending danger that accompanies our 
ignoring His government.' 163 This fear of impending danger is, of course, linked to 
submission to a church leader, for in the very next paragraph Bevere makes his claim that 'we 

160 Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 

161 Bevere, Under, 10. 

162 Ibid., 10. 

163 Ibid., 11. 


cannot separate our submission to God's inherent authority from our submission to His 
delegated authority. All authority originates from Him! 164 

We have already noted Bevere's wrong use of 1 Sam 15:22-23 and his warnings that 
'witchcraft can be practised. . .with total unawareness,' that a Christian can be 'under its 
influence unknowingly because of the deception of rebellion,' and that 'by rebelling against 
the order and laws of God and His delegated authority. . . [people] grant legal access to the 
controlling demonic realm.' 165 In Chapter 7 of Under Cover (titled 'Bewitched') Bevere 
writes that the incident in Numbers 25, in which 24,000 Hebrew people died, 'affirms 
rebellion as witchcraft and grants [sic] legal entrance to demonic powers of control. ' 
Bevere's interpretation of the event is that, as 'God is not the Author of plagues and 
diseases,' his 'covering of protection was lifted, and the enemy had legal access.' This was 
because 'the children of Israel blatantly rebelled and violated His authority.' 166 Bevere 
ignores the fact that Numbers 25 says that 'the LORD'S anger burned against them' (Num 

Bevere claims that Gal 3:1 is a New Testament example of demonic powers being given 
'legal access'. When Paul writes, 'O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you 
should not obey the truth...' (Gal 3:1) Bevere's explanation is that because of their 
disobedience 'Paul was telling the churches they were under a witchcraft curse!' 167 This 
explicit warning - not submitting to God's authority leads to satanic deception and a curse - 

Ibid., 11. 
165 Ibid., 68. 

Ibid., 76. 
167 Ibid., 6. The Nestle-Aland / United Bible Societies' Greek text omits the words 'that you should not 

obey the truth.' 


will surely lead to a very real fear for many Christians that there is spiritual danger if they do 
not always obey their church leader. There is no scholarly interpretation of these verses that 
agrees with Bevere's view that the Christians in Galatia were literally under a curse because 
of disobedience. Rhetorical hyperbole is what is usually understood when looking at Gal 3:1. 
The apostle is exasperated and amazed that the Galatian Christians are forsaking their New 
Covenant gospel freedoms to be enslaved again to religious rules, laws and Old Covenant 
ceremonies (particularly circumcision). 

Another factor that causes Christians to continue to be a part of a church that teaches 
covering theology is the approach to Scripture that such churches typically take. It is a fact 
that both the Shepherding Movement and the impact and promulgation of teachings such as 
those in Bevere's Under Cover are almost exclusively seen in the Charismatic wing of the 
Church. Tebay writes of the 'fertile soil of the Charismatic church' 168 given its anti- 
intellectual and anti-scholarly bias. The scholarly historical/critical method of biblical 
interpretation is seen as spiritually dead and overly academic. Thus, a 'spiritually inspired' 
method of interpreting the Bible is used which, in effect, makes it very difficult to challenge 
the leadership or teachings of the church. With the leaders being God's delegated authority, 
they are also the ones with God's delegated interpretation of His Word. As Tebay writes: 

If your 'covering' has more 'spiritual authority' than you, how do you know what is 
biblical and what isn't? How can scripture be used as leverage against unbiblical 
teaching when the highest authority isn't actually scripture, it is scripture rightly 
interpreted by God's delegated authority? 169 

With the truths of God's Word needing spiritual discernment, and with the leaders of the 

168 Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 

169 Ibid., n.p. 


church being invested with spiritual authority, the 'ordinary church member' is loath to 
challenge such a fixed set-up. Besides this, church members are not taught biblical 
hermeneutics, nor are they taught to think critically. 

First Samuel records the people of Israel demanding a king to rule over them. The direct 
governance of God in our lives is often an uncomfortable thought. We want a go-between or 
a mediator - or even a golden idol such as that made in Exodus 32. With perceptive 
psychological insight, Tebay says: 

We want a tamer version of God as mediated through people. In covering theology 
people are not directly accountable to God. They are directly accountable to their 
human authority. These authorities are not so exacting and precise as a direct 
relationship with the Holy Spirit. 170 

Tebay adds that while many people find the idea of submitting to another human being 
'repugnant' there are others who 'shrink back from taking responsibility for their own actions 
and their own lives.' 171 For them, the safe attractions of a 'follow the leader' church are an 
integral part of their faith and walk with God. Frank Viola concurs: 

The truth is that many of us - like Israel of old - still clamour for a king to rule over 
us. We want a visible mediator to tell us what 'God hath said'. ..The presence of a 
human mediator in a church is a cherished tradition to which many Christians are 
fiercely committed. But it doesn't square with Scripture... It suppresses the free 
functioning and full maturing of Christ's body. 172 

Leadership is power. 173 It involves the trust and respect of people. The preacher's 
communication skills and persuasive rhetoric while preaching the tenets of covering theology 
can undoubtedly sway the strongest mind. Though we may assume the advocates of covering 

Ibid., n.p. 
171 Ibid., n.p. 

172 Viola, Reimagining, 163. 

173 Walter Chantry writes that 'refusal to think about the power connected with the Christian ministry is a 
variety of naivete.' Beardmore, Flock, 190. 


are sincere, Johnson and Van Vonderen's text, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, points 
out that, sincere though preachers of wrong, abusive or authoritarian doctrines and practices 
may be, they are 'just as trapped in their unhealthy beliefs and actions as those who they 
knowingly or unknowingly abuse.' 174 

Despite the sincerity of some, there are surely those who knowingly teach covering 
theology to consolidate their power in the church. There are several instances in the Gospels 
in which Jesus' disciples are tempted to grasp after power, 175 while Peter instructs leaders not 
to 'lord it over' the church or domineer (1 Pet 5:1-5). What was a temptation for human 
nature then, is a temptation for human nature now. 


Andrew Walker, writing in 1985, claimed that 'the evidence for the effects of shepherding is 
notoriously difficult to find.' 176 Twenty- five years later, can we see any obvious effects? The 
first element we can surely find is in the motivation for service that covering theology 
consistently evokes. True Christian servitude should be motivated by love for God and love 
for his people. In covering theology people are coerced or threatened with spiritual deception 
if they do not always obey God's delegated authority found in the church leader. Spiritual 
legalism and fear can be the main controlling factors for Christian obedience. 

174 David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognising & 
Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church (Minneapolis: Bethany 
House, 1991), 24. 

175 See Mat 18:1-4; 23:8-12; Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48; 22:24-27. 

176 Walker, Restoring, 153. Walker does go on to say that 'it would seem likely that paternalism breeds 
dependency, and shepherding, instead of producing Christian leaders, merely produces sheep.' 


The elders and leaders in churches which teach covering theology will, due to the theology 
itself, rarely be held accountable: a precarious state of affairs. Those who voice contrary 
opinions can be labelled as rebellious or in deception. As Walter Chantry says, 'to categorise 
certain Christians as enemies or the tools of Satan will not build up God's kingdom, but it 
will create an attitude of paranoia' which can 'destroy the spiritual health of the church' and 
can even lead to 'cult-like excesses.' 177 In trusting that 'leadership knows best' and that, as 
leaders, they are at the top of the pyramid and therefore know God better, critical thinking is 
sapped away. Allowing others to make decisions for them leaves the Christian as a spiritual 
infant. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in self-discipline, and mature decision making with 'the 
mind of Christ' is lost. One writer says that 'leaders should be eager to foster independence 
and internal moral control in their members, avoiding dependency.' 178 And, as Walter 
Chantry notes, the spiritual pedigree of the church in future generations will be damaged. If 
the church leader or elders are authoritarian then men of strong minds and independent 
judgment will leave the church - 'these very ones would have the greatest potential for future 
leadership in the assembly.' 179 Bob Buess agrees with this assessment when he writes of the 
'neo-discipleship' movement - his term for the Shepherding Movement: 

Following the neo-discipleship route the strong individuals are destroyed. Men with 
deep convictions must submit them to the shepherd... It promotes 'yes men'. The neo- 
discipleship doctrine and dogma rules out men of convictions. This does away with 
men who hear from God. This, in reality, kills the move of God. 180 

177 Beardmore, Flock, 195. 

178 Dennis McCallum, "Leadership and Authority in the Church: What It Is and Isn't," n.p. [cited 21 
November 201 1]. Online: 

179 Walter Chantry, "The Christian Ministry and Self Denial," BTM (November 1979): 22-23. 

180 Buess, Discipleship , 53. Buess makes a telling comparison with world leaders: 'You have seen this 
work in ungodly governments when they want to destroy men who are leaders. These men usually will not 
submit to their ungodly programs. Dictators remove natural leaders and replace them with small men who know 
how to rubber stamp their superiors. These are yes men.' 


The high view of leadership that covering theology espouses creates many problems. The 
effects on Christians are no longer 'notoriously difficult to find.' Moore documents many 
experiences of Christians leaving the Shepherding Movement and notes that 'if the one-on- 
one pastoral relationship broke down, then so did the person's relationship to the church.' 181 
There are many published accounts of discouraged and disillusioned Christians who have 
been hurt by authoritative leaders and who have had their relationship with the Church 
affected because of this. 

There is a real danger that Christians will violate their own consciences in their 
willingness to submit to a church leader. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 deal with this 
scenario. In covering theology, a new priesthood implicitly develops. Jerram Barrs reminds 
us that the role of church leaders is 'not to stand between the believer and God, but rather to 
lead the believer to stand before God.' 182 Perhaps most seriously, it is a wrong view of God. 
The Bible does not teach that God's provision and protection come to the believer if they are 
submitted to his delegated authority found in the church leader. Taken to its extreme, a 
distant deist god is formed who speaks to church leaders who then mediate him to the 
congregation. God's supernatural activity in the life of the individual believer is lessened, and 
instead of placing their trust wholly in God, believers place their trust in their leaders and 
their own submission to those leaders. After 19 years in the Shepherding Movement, Ron 
Burks writes the following: 

The Enemy is the one who managed to obscure the Cross for us by tricking us to put 
our trust in men. . . The kind of control over my life that I permitted, believing it was 
biblical, amounted to idolatry. I committed to a man what should only be committed 
to God, and expected to receive from a man what can only come from God. Thinking 
I was doing God's will, I was actually committing spiritual adultery. 183 

Moore, Shepherding, 1 76. 
Barrs, Shepherds, 87. 
Burks, Damaged, 163. 


No doubt there will always be temptations to extremes in every area and doctrine of the 
Christian faith. Just as there may be the temptation to lord it over the flock, so there may be 
the temptation to refuse any authority structures at all. Our supreme example must always be 
found in the Lord Jesus Christ. His was the model of servant leadership, the One who 'did not 
come to be served, but to serve,' (Matt 20:28); the One who washed the feet of His disciples 
(John 13:1-17) and who took on 'the very nature of a servant' (Phil 2:7). It is therefore 
regrettable that Jesus' own words on leadership are missing from Under Cover. Matthew 20 
details the request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Wanting her sons to receive glory 
and power in the kingdom of God - and almost certainly assuming that the kingdom would be 
manifest in the here and now on earth - the Lord Jesus demolishes any hierarchical form of 
power- hungry leadership. His response is: 

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men 
exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be 
great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must 
be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give 
his life a ransom for many (Matt 20:25-28). 

The New Testament uses the self-sacrificing life of service that the Lord Jesus Christ 
embodied as a model for Christian leaders. Ron Burks writes of how the Shepherding 
Movement misinterpreted such a model: was understood that leaders served by leading - by leading, they were laying down 
their lives for their followers... This noble tendency was codified by Charles Simpson: 
'A disciple becomes a recipient of the favour and love given him, therefore he must 
be desirous of being a servant worthy of that favour' [New Wine, March 1974]. In the 
context of the Shepherding Movement, it was the leader who was loved and favoured 
and the follower who served. The follower was a 'recipient of the favour and love 
given him,' and he 'owed' service to the leader. The emphasis placed on the leader's 
authority, combined with a willingness on the part of the follower to be a servant, 


brought about a great reversal of Jesus' pattern of service. 


Burks goes on to write that 'our system - serving those in leadership - was a perversion of 

Christ's example.' 185 The word translated 'lord it over' in Mat 20:25 (katakurieu,ousin) is 
also found in Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25 and 1 Pet 5:3. The phrase carries no connotations of 
coercion, manipulation or abuse of power. It simply means 'to rule over'. The issue is not the 
abuse of leadership, but the hierarchical forms of leadership and systems of authority that 
were practised (and are still practised) in the Gentile world. Frank Viola points out that the 
word is: 

katexousiazo... a combination of two Greek words: kata, which means 'over'; and 
exousiazo, which means to 'exercise authority'. Jesus also used the Greek word 
katakuriezo in this passage, which means to 'lord it over' others. What Jesus is 
condemning in these texts is not oppressive leaders as such. He's condemning the 
hierarchical form of leadership that dominates the Gentile world. 186 

Critics of covering theology are often caricatured as anti-authority, individualistic rebels 
who want to live their lives their own way with no submission to any authority - including 
God's. However, as Leighton Tebay says, it is ironic that it is the proponents of covering 
theology themselves who are at risk of rebellion as they claim an authority that only belongs 
to God. They also display an almost breathtaking ignorance of church history. He writes: 

In their attempts to patch together the disparate passages that make up their case for 
coverings they have to neglect centuries of orthodox biblical interpretation and the 
very foundations of the Reformation and Evangelicalism. 187 

Ibid., 94. 

185 Ibid., 98. 

186 Viola, Reimagining, 156. 

187 Tebay, "Covering," n.p. Such ignorance is hardly surprising in the light of Bevere's own lack of 
awareness of the Shepherding Movement which was at its height 20 years prior to the publication of Under 


Is Bevere heretical? There are three Hebrew words that can be translated as 'covering'. 
The first, sakak, means 'to cover, or hedge in.' 188 Strong says that, in its figurative sense, the 
word means 'to protect.. .to cover, defend, hedge in, join together, set, or shut up.' 189 The 
second Hebrew word is kasah - its primary meaning is 'to cover for clothing or secrecy,' 190 - 
while the third word is kaphar. The King James Version of the Bible translates this word as 
'to make atonement' and the root also means 'to cover over, pacify, make propitiation.' 191 
The chief meaning of 'covering' used by Bevere is in its meaning of 'to protect' {sakak). 
However, as Steve Coleman says, when examining the classic Shepherding/Discipleship and 
covering doctrine that 'we do not obey those in authority because they are right; we obey 
them because they are in authority, and all authority ultimately stems from God Himself 192 
this claim is not only for 'sakak covering' but for 'kaphar covering'. The long summary is 
worth quoting in full: 

...the implication is that people could do something that is normally considered sin, 
i.e. something that is out of God's will. A person may know it is sin, but does not 
have to worry about it because he is 'covered' by a shepherd. A person will not be 
judged for the sin, but for his submission to the shepherd. If this is the case, then how 
would a sin become an act of obedience? The only answer is that this transformation 
occurs through the process of 'covering.' In summary... We obey our shepherd, but 
our action is against God's will. We are 'covered' through our submission to a 
shepherd. Because of our submission, the sin becomes an act of righteousness. If our 
sin could be transformed in this way, it could only be through kaphar covering. Only 
through kaphar, or atonement, could sin thus be removed, annulled and wiped out. In 
other words, the Shepherding Movement teaches that atonement or propitiation comes 
through the shepherd and the authority to which we are submitted. 193 

Such a summary is implicit throughout Under Cover. If a believer is living the Christian 
life in fear of disobeying a church leader; if they believe that they will be judged by God 

188 Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 209. 

189 James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (New York: Blingdon Press, 1965), 82. 

190 Strong, Concordance, 56. 

191 Francis Brown, S.R. Driver & Charles A Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament: 
With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1968), 497. 

192 Prince, Discipleship, 18. 

193 Steve Coleman, Article online, 'Shepherding Covering and the MSOG' 


primarily on how well they obeyed that leader; if they believe that doing what their church 
leader says protects them from the devil and demonic assault; if they believe that their faith 
and their ability to receive supernatural healing from God are in relation to their level of 
submission to a church leader, then it is clear that covering theology is an aberrant, wrong 
system of doctrine. It is a misinterpretation of Scripture and leads to idolatry, fear and 
'spiritual adultery'. Leighton Tebay asks whether the requirement to come under the 
authority of church leaders is more like a new law or whether it is part of living by the Spirit? 
He writes: 

The obligations of the mosaic law were onerous but at least they were consistent. A 
new law founded on the authoritative whims of church leaders has the potential to be 
far more of a burden... 194 

The law brought slavery and death. There are many tales of spiritual abuse and 
shipwrecked faith that people have suffered under the auspices of 'Shepherding' and 
'Discipling.' The covering theology advocated in John Bevere's Under Cover only adds to 
this detrimental effect on the Church. 

Tebay, "Covering," n.p. 



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Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983. 

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian 
Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. 

Beardmore, Roger., ed. Shepherding God's Flock: Essays on Leadership in the Local Church 
Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988. 

Bevere, John. Under Cover: The Promise of Protection Under His Authority . Nashville: 
Thomas Nelson, 2001. 

Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver & Charles A Briggs. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old 
Testament: With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic. Oxford: The 
Clarendon Press, 1968. 

Buckingham, Jamie. "The End of the Discipleship Era." Ministries Today (January/February 
1990): 46, 48. 

Buess, Bob. Discipleship Pro and Con. Texas: Buess, 1975. 

Burgess, Stanley M. and Eduard M. Van Der Maas, eds. The New International Dictionary of 
Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements . Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. 

Burks, Ron & Vicki. Damaged Disciples: Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the 
Shepherding Movement. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992. 

Calvin, John. Hebrews and 1 & 2 Peter. Calvin New Testament Commentaries 12. Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 

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